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THE MAN VERDI 



By the same author 
HUGO WOLF 




Bust of Verdi by Vincenzo Gemito (1872) 



FRANK WALKER 



The Man 

VERDI 



r 

NEW YORK: ALFRED A. KNOPF 
1962 



tt 



MUSIC LIBRARY 

A\L 






Copyright © 1962, the Executors of 

the Estate of the late Frank Walker 

Printed in Great Britain by 

The Aldine Press • Letchworth 



For Anne 



Contents 



Introduction 

1. Early Life at Busseto and Milan: Legends and Documents 

2. Bartolomeo Merelli, Giuseppina Strepponi and Napo 

leone Moriani ..... 



3. Donizetti, Verdi and Giuseppina Appiani 

4. Muzio's Verdi: Milan before the Revolution 

5. Verdi and Giuseppina Strepponi . 

6. Giuseppina at her Writing-desk . 

7. The Breach with Mariani 

8. Verdi, Giuseppina and Teresa Stolz 

9. Boito and Verdi .... 

Index ..... 



XI 

1 

38 
96 
117 
164 
228 
283 
393 
447 
511 



VI] 



Illustrations 

Bust of Verdi by Vincenzo Gemito (1872) . frontispiece 

facing page 
Verdi's birthplace at Le Roncole 16 

Margherita Barezzi, Verdi's first wife . . . .51 

Bartolomeo Merelli . . . . . .82 

Giuseppina Strepponi . . . . . .115 

Napoleone Moriani . . . . . . .146 

Gaetano Donizetti ....... 275 

Angelo Mariani 306 

Teresa Stolz 306 

Villa Verdi at Sant' Agata . . . . . .339 

Clarina Maffei 370 

Teresa Stolz as Aida 370 

Palazzo Sauli at Genoa . . . . ■ . . 403 

Antonio Barezzi . 434 

Giuseppina Verdi (1878) . . . . . . .443 

Verdi and Boito at Sant' Agata 458 

Verdi on his death-bed . . . . . . 475 

Verdi's funeral procession 490 



The photograph of Palazzo Sauli at Genoa, facing page 403, from Umberto 
Zoppi's Mariani, Verdi e la Stolz, is reproduced by kind permission of the 
publisher, Aldo Garzanti; all other illustrations are by courtesy of Conte Stefano 
Vittadini, Director of the Scala Museum, Milan. 



IX 



Introduction 

Verdi has a way of escaping his biographers. The known facts of his 
long and busy career have been told and retold, but the man himself 
remains a distant figure, protected still by his habitual reserve and 
mistrust. In all the vast mass of his published correspondence, highly 
characteristic and absorbingly interesting as much of it is, there are 
few really confidential revelations. The Copialettere tell us much 
about his business relations with publishers, impresarios and libret- 
tists, but very little about his intimate private life. 

This book has been written in the belief that the material, neverthe- 
less, does exist, from which Verdi and his times can be clearly evoked, 
if only the form be found in which to present it. In my view, the 
unimaginative 'Life and Works' scheme has failed; again and again 
Verdi has been buried under masses of facts and dates. A fresh 
approach to the problem is necessary. 

In this biographical experiment I have tried to depict Verdi the man 
through the stories of his relationships with some of those who knew 
him best. Perhaps a living figure will emerge if we can see him as he 
was seen, at different periods of his life, by his benefactor and father- 
in-law Antonio Barezzi, by his adoring pupil Emanuele Muzio, by 
Giuseppina Strepponi, by Mariani, Teresa Stolz, Boito and others. 
The plan of the book takes us, on a broadly chronological basis, 
through the whole of his life, and permits full discussion of various 
controversial matters. One of the consequences of Verdi's reticence 
has been that, in Italy in recent years, the gaps in our knowledge have 
been filled by inventions, which, endlessly repeated and amplified by 
ignorant and unscrupulous journalists, and popularized by films, 
have come to be accepted almost as gospel. This book sticks to the 
documents and attempts to build up a true picture from them, and to 
destroy the false legends. 

In Verdi's case the most revealing things are often letters written to 
him, or about him. An almost unhoped for glimpse of what went on 
behind the iron curtain that was the fence and poplar screen of 
Sant' Agata was given by Alessandro Luzio in 1937, when he pub- 
lished a number of Giuseppina Strepponi's letters to Verdi. More 
recently the rediscovery of Giuseppina's own correspondence with 
the impresario Alessandro Lanari has thrown new light on her early 
life and the antecedents of her relationship with Verdi. I offer no 
apology for devoting long sections of this book to this remarkable 
and most lovable woman, the most important person in Verdi's life. 

xi 



xii INTRODUCTION 

Muzio's letters to Barezzi, published by Luigi Agostino Garibaldi in 
1931, provide a unique picture of Verdi and Milan before the revolu- 
tion of 1848 ; they are quoted here at much greater length than would 
be possible in the course of a straightforward biography. At the other 
end of the composer's life we have some wonderful letters of Boito. 

Special attention has been given to the backgrounds against which 
Verdi moved and worked — from the parish pump of Busseto to the 
cathedral of Milan, from the shady theatrical underworld to the 
solitude and calm of Sant' Agata. 

The whole Verdi literature, including the periodical literature, has 
been used in the preparation of this book, and all the unpublished 
material to which I have been able to obtain access. During the last 
fifteen years I have worked in many Italian libraries, and tried the 
patience of friends too numerous to mention. Unpublished material 
used here has been drawn chiefly from four sources: the Scala 
Museum at Milan, the archives of Villa Verdi at Sant' Agata, the 
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale at Florence and the Boito archives at 
Parella. The Scala Museum has many visitors, but few people realize 
how rich it is — apart from the beautifully displayed exhibits in the 
show-cases — in letters and other documents of theatrical history of 
all periods. I must acknowledge here the great kindness of the 
director of the museum, Count Stefano Vittadini, in allowing me 
free access to the very numerous letters of Verdi, Giuseppina Strep- 
poni, Moriani and others in this collection. On the other hand, 
everybody has long known what treasures Villa Verdi contains. 
Alessandro Luzio worked there for many years and published his 
findings in the Carteggi verdiani, but it is said to have been difficult 
for ordinary mortals to gain access to these archives. I can only record 
my own experience. The late Dr Angiolo Carrara Verdi always 
replied to my inquiries, and since his death his family has been 
wonderfully kind and helpful. Visiting Busseto, I have been able to 
study Giuseppina Strepponi's manuscript letter-books, the whole of 
Mariani's correspondence with Verdi, a large part of that of Teresa 
Stolz and various other documents that specially interested me. To 
the whole family, and in particular to Signorina Gabriella Carrara 
Verdi, I owe a great debt. At Florence I have been chiefly concerned 
with the vast and almost unexplored collection of the letters and 
papers of the impresario Alessandro Lanari. It consists of about 
fifteen thousand letters to and from composers, singers, impresarios 
and theatrical agents. Giuseppina Strepponi's letters to Lanari were 
photographed for me by courtesy of Dr Rodolfo Paoli, but my chief 
debt in this connection is to Dr Franco Schlitzer, who by an exchange 
arrangement read on my behalf at least two thousand letters and 
transcribed about a hundred passages concerning Giuseppina in the 
correspondence of Lanari with other people. My last chapter owes 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

much to Piero Nardi's splendid Vita di Arrigo Boito of 1942. Verdi's 
letters to Boito are still largely unpublished. In order that I might be 
able to study them independently, Boito's biographer magnanimously 
presented me with his own copies ; since at first only about half of the 
correspondence could be found, the rest was photographed for me by 
Dr Leonardo Albertini from the autographs at Parella. As a result I 
have been able to incorporate a number of unpublished or incom- 
pletely published letters from Verdi to Boito in this chapter. 

My acknowledgments are due also to Professor Napoletano, of the 
library of the Monte di Credito su Pegno, at Busseto; to Arthur 
Hedley and Mile Suzanne Chainaye, for material concerning Giusep- 
pina Strepponi in Paris ; to Dr Enrico Olmo and Claudio Sartori, for 
copies of that part of Verdi's and Giuseppina's correspondence with 
the Countess Maffei which remained in possession of her heirs ; to 
Don Ferruccio Botti, Signora Cina Orlandi, Professor Gino Ron- 
caglia, Senator Giovanni Treccani degli Alfieri, Dr Leonardo Lapic- 
cirella, Maestro Guglielmo Barblan, Mr Edward Kravitt and finally 
to my friend Uberto Limentani of Cambridge, to whom over many 
years I have repeatedly submitted tricky problems of interpretation, 
translation, dialect, etc. 

A version of my investigations into the relations between Verdi, 
Donizetti and Giuseppina Appiani appeared in Music & Letters for 
January 1951 ; a full discussion of the Verdian forgeries of Lorenzo 
Alpino is to be found in the Music Review for November 1958 and 
February 1959. I have to thank the editors of these periodicals for 
permission to reprint some of this material. 

F.W. 




Verdi, from a drawing by Raymond Piper 



CHAPTER 



Early Life at Busseto and Milan : 
Legends and Documents 



JLhi 



.he registers of the parish church of Le Roncole, in the plain 
of Parma, show that Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was born 
there at 8 p.m. on 10th October 1813, and baptized the next day. 
There was for a long time confusion about even this apparently 
simple matter, for Verdi himself believed what his mother had always 
told him— that he was born on 9th October 1814. When in 1876 he 
learned from the church registers of Le Roncole that he was a year 
older than he had thought, he accepted the fact, but nevertheless 
continued for the rest of his life to celebrate his birthday on the 
wrong day. 

Since the composer whose name was afterwards to be so closely 
associated with the Risorgimento and unification of Italy came into 
the world while the Duchy of Parma was under French domination, 
his father had also to go into the neighbouring town of Busseto to 
register the birth there with the French civil authorities. Verdi thus 
appears in the books at Busseto as Joseph Fortunin Francois. A 
year or two later this entry would perhaps have been made out in 
German by the Austrians. But what is actually the earliest record of 
his birth and baptism is in the parish register of Le Roncole and is 
in Latin. 

Le Roncole was, and is, the merest hamlet — a number of scattered 
houses, a church and, on a corner where two roads meet, the squalid 
building where Verdi's father kept a tavern of sorts and sold wine and 
groceries. 

Very little is known about the composer's parents. In his case there 

1 



2 THE MAN VERDI 

are no family letters, such as those that reveal so much of the home 
life and family affections of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Chopin or Wolf. 
Verdi's parents could apparently neither read nor write: both are 
described as 'illiterate' in an official report on the family compiled 
at Busseto in 1832. The father could sign his name, but the few 
existing documents to which his signature is attached were drawn up 
for him by other people. 

Carlo Verdi was born on 22nd August 1785, at Le Roncole, where 
his forbears had lived for at least six generations. His father died in 
the open street at Busseto when Carlo was thirteen years of age, and 
in 1804, when he was nineteen, he was endeavouring to support his 
widowed mother and a younger brother on the profits of his osteria. 
It was no easy task and he was desperately poor. In a surviving 
document, 1 dated 2nd October 1804, he petitions against the verdict 
of the district court at Busseto, which had found him guilty of per- 
mitting gambling in his establishment. Some youths had been sur- 
prised there with a pack of cards and had defended themselves by 
declaring that the cards did not belong to them but had been found 
on the premises. Carlo Verdi denied this, pleaded that he had himself 
been absent with his mother at the church of the Madonna dei Prati 
when the incident occurred, and supplied testimonials to his character 
from the parish priest and the four deputies of Le Roncole. The 
priest declared: 'He is poor in worldly goods, possessing nothing at 
all, but is nevertheless a youth of excellent habits, very conscientious, 
assiduously attentive to the Church, to Christian doctrine and to the 
Sacraments, not at all inclined to the taverns, an enemy of gaming, 
of dangerous companions and of everything that could obscure the 
good name and the high esteem he has always enjoyed and enjoys still 
among good people, not only in this village but in the whole district.' 
The deputies confirmed that Carlo was a youth of praiseworthy 
character, of good name and fame, pious and 'hostile to any sort of 
gaming and card-playing in particular, especially in his own inn'. A 
prodigy of virtue! But Dionigi Crescini, President of the Council of 
Criminal Justice, was not impressed by these testimonials: 'The 
contravention of the law was proved at the trial. Furthermore, the 
cards were found on the table of the inn when the players entered, 
which is a kind of invitation to gaming on the part of the host. The 
law is most sacred; rigorous examples are necessary; hence it is not 
deemed expedient to grant the requested remission of punishment.' 

After that, although he lived until 1867, we hear little more of 
Verdi's father. About his mother, Luigia Uttini, we know almost 
nothing, except that, born on 29th September 1787 at Saliceto di 
Cadeo (Piacenza), where her parents kept an inn, she came to Busseto 
with one of her brothers in 1804, married Carlo Verdi on 30th January 

1 Giovanni Drei, 'Notizie e documenti verdiani' (Aurea Parma, fasc. 1-2, 1941). 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 3 

1805 * and died on 30th June 1851, having given birth to a musical 
genius and to a girl-child, Giuseppa Francesca, who, believedly as the 
result of meningitis, was mentally deficient. Giuseppa, born on 20th 
March 1816, died at Le Roncole on 9th August 1833, at the age of 
seventeen. 

Italo Pizzi of Parma, who became one of Verdi's friends and also 
collected information about the composer from the Barezzi family, 
has some remarks on the characters of his parents. 2 Luigia was hard- 
working, courageous, sensible and dignified; it was from her that 
Verdi inherited his best qualities. Carlo, however, according to Pizzi, 
gave up his tavern and lived a life of ease at his son's expense, as soon 
as the latter began to win fame and to make money. From the papers 
of Ercolano Balestra, 3 notary of Busseto, we know that in 1846 Carlo 
sold a small field at Le Roncole for 1,000 lire and in 1849 sold his 
house and a piece of ground for 2,900 fire. And we know that in May 
1849 the composer installed his parents in the house that was to 
become, after many alterations, the Villa Verdi, at Sant' Agata. There 
was certainly sometimes friction between father and son. A letter 
from Verdi to Balestra in 1851 states that he has heard that his 
father is going about saying that the administration of the Sant' 
Agata farms had been entrusted to him. Verdi denies this and adds : 
'I can only repeat what I told you yesterday by word of mouth: 
to the world, Carlo Verdi must be one thing and Giuseppe Verdi 
another.' 

Most of the current stories of Verdi's early life appeared first in 
Pougin's 'anecdotal biography', originally published serially in Le 
Menestrel in French, and then in 1881 in book form in an Italian 
translation, with additional material by 'Folchetto' (Jacopo Caponi). 
This Italian edition is the most valuable as a source book. 4 Verdi 
was sceptical about the interest which an account of his own life 
could have for the public, but he told Ricordi that if he was 
publishing it he should see that it was as accurate as possible. He 
collaborated to the extent of giving Ricordi an account of his early 
years at Milan. He was sent the proofs, and returned them 'with 
corrections of various inaccuracies of some importance'. However, 
Verdi's own recollections, in this document and in some later letters, 
are often demonstrably inaccurate. 

Today the tendency is to look askance at 'anecdotal biography', 
distrusting every story that cannot be supported by documentary 
evidence. This is all to the good as long as it is not carried too far. 

1 Emilio Ottolenghi, *La Madre di Verdi* (Bollettino storico piacentino, July-Dec. 
1940). 

1 Per ilprimo centenario della nascita di Giuseppe Verdi, (Turin, 1913). 

3 P. Luigi Ag. Grazzi, 'Documenti inediti della giovinezza di Verdi' {Gazzetta di 
Parma, 3rd July 1950). 

*The English version of 1887 is translated from a revision by Pougin of his own 
material and that of 'Folchetto'. 



4 THE MAN VERDI 

The documents available are often insufficient to illuminate all phases 
of a great man's life, and where other evidence is lacking, even a 
legend is better than nothing. Everything depends on the number of 
the documents and the quality of the legends. 

Carlo Gatti in his monumental biography x does not accept at its 
face value the earliest of all the stories of the composer's youth, which 
relates how in 1814, when the Austrian and Russian armies began to 
turn the French out of northern Italy, a group of Russians passed 
through Le Roncole, looting, raping and killing some of the inhabit- 
ants, including women who had taken refuge in the church, Verdi's 
mother saving herself and her child by hiding in the belfry. Gatti 
wants documentary evidence and says the episode is not mentioned in 
Verdi's letters nor in any of his recorded conversations. But it is 
worth noting that this story was among those told to Luisa Man- 
cinelli-Cora by Giuseppina Strepponi, the composer's second wife. 2 
If Giuseppina told the story, it may be taken that Verdi himself 
believed it to be true. And certainly no one who has had any experi- 
ence of what it means to be 'liberated' by Russians could find 
anything improbable about it. 

Verdi's first music master was the village organist of Le Roncole, 
old Pietro Baistrocchi. Before very long the pupil was taking his 
teacher's place. At the age of ten, on the death of the priest who 
taught him in the village elementary school, Giuseppe began to 
attend the ginnasio at Busseto and it was arranged that he should 
lodge there with a friend of his father's, a cobbler called 'Pugnatta' 
(this would be a nickname), who charged thirty centesimi a day. It can 
be imagined that this sum did not permit much luxury. A school- 
fellow, Marco Boccelli, who became a priest, recalled later how he 
used to share his lunch with the young Verdi, who generally had 
nothing more than a slice of toasted polenta and some pickled onions. 
By this time Baistrocchi was dead and his former pupil engaged 
officially as organist of the church of Le Roncole, at a salary of 
thirty-six lire per annum, plus additional fees for weddings and 
funerals and the benefit of a collection at harvest-time. His basic 
salary was raised to forty lire after repeated appeals by his father. The 
job brought in the equivalent of four pounds a year and Verdi 
retained it until he left for Milan at the age of eighteen. 

'I had a hard time of it in my youth,' the composer told Camille 
Bellaigue, and we can well believe it. Nevertheless mistaken emphasis 
has been laid by some of his biographers on the fact that on Sundays 
and feast days he used to go on foot from Busseto to Le Roncole and 
back, to fulfil his duties as organist. A town-bred Italian of today 
would undoubtedly faint if it were suggested that he should do the 

1 Verdi (first edition, Milan, 1931; second edition, Milan, 1951). 

2 Luisa Mancinelli-Cora, Giuseppe Verdi {Ricordi personali) (Genoa, 1936). 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 5 

same, but this walk of about three miles in each direction would be 
nothing to a peasant boy in ordinary circumstances. 1 The story has 
more point in the version given by Giuseppina Strepponi to Luisa 
Mancinelli-Cora, according to which Verdi often walked this distance 
barefoot, carrying his boots so as not to wear them out. But presum- 
ably he did not do that in the winter. 

One Christmas morning, before dawn, Verdi was making his way 
to Le Roncole for the early mass when he stumbled into a deep ditch 
and might have been drowned if his cries for help had not been heard 
by a passing peasant. This anecdote can be readily accepted as 
authentic by anyone who has visited this part of Italy. Great irriga- 
tion ditches, ten or more feet wide and very deep, are a feature of 
the country; one of them accompanies the road between Busseto 
and Le Roncole, with no hedge or fence to guard it, and at one point 
the road makes a sudden almost right-angled turn to the right. 
This was perhaps the scene of Verdi's accident. Anyone who in 
darkness or fog missed the turn would inevitably walk straight into 
the ditch. 

It is not unfitting that Verdi's parents should have remained in the 
obscurity in which they lived, for there was another person who seems 
to us today to stand in relationship to him in the position normally 
occupied by a father. In everything except the actual physical fact 
Antonio Barezzi, a most attractive and lovable figure, was Verdi's 
father. Barezzi, born in 1787, was a prosperous merchant with a 
house on the piazza facing the Rocca di Busseto at the end of the 
arcaded main street of the sleepy little town. There he sold wine, 
groceries, and liqueurs of his own distillation, and Carlo Verdi was 
one of his customers, when he came in to Busseto each week to renew 
supplies for the tavern of Le Roncole. Barezzi was also an enthusi- 
astic music lover, or, as a contemporary fellow townsman put it, a 
'maniaco dilettante'. He was the founder and president of the local 
Philharmonic Society, which met for rehearsals and performances in 
a large room in his house. He himself played the flute well and could 
also take a hand with a clarinet, horn or ophicleide. It cannot be 
precisely determined when Barezzi first began to show interest in the 
young Verdi, but it seems almost certain that it was on his advice 
that the boy was sent to lodge at Busseto. 

Gatti tells us that Verdi was admitted to the ginnasio at Busseto in 
November 1823. In a later document the priest Don Pietro Seletti 
attests that the composer attended his classes in Italian grammar, 
elementary and advanced, for two years, and Canon Giuseppe 
Demalde, school inspector of Busseto, adds that Verdi also completed 

1 G. Pighini ('Giuseppe Verdi visto da un biologo', in Archivio storicoper leprovincie 
parmensi, 1941) says: 'Seven kilometres of road! Three or four hours just for the journey 
there and back!' I have myself walked from Busseto to Le Roncole in forty-three 
minutes. 



6 THE MAN VERDI 

the course in 'humanity and rhetoric' under Carlo Curotti and Don 
Giacinto Volpini. 1 The boy studied music under Ferdinando Provesi, 
maestro di cappella and organist of the collegiate church of San 
Bartolomeo, 2 and director of the municipal school of music and of 
the Philharmonic Society; but it is not established that he began his 
musical studies with Provesi at the same time as his lessons in 
grammar with Seletti. A familiar story tells of the rivalry of these two 
men. Seletti wished Verdi to become a priest; Provesi was sure he had 
before him a great future as a musician; Seletti capitulated after 
hearing Verdi improvise on an occasion when he was deputizing for 
a local organist, one Captain Soncini. Perhaps this was towards the 
close of 1825 and marked the beginning of his serious studies at the 
municipal school of music under Provesi. When Verdi made applica- 
tion for employment as organist of Soragna, a village not far from 
Le Roncole, at the end of October 1829, Provesi wrote him a letter 
of recommendation, 3 and in this he specifies four years of music 
study then completed. So the four years in the school of music only 
began in the autumn of 1825, after Verdi had been already for two 
years under Seletti at the ginnasio. 

It is very frequently stated by biographers that Verdi became an 
apprentice in Barezzi's grocer's shop, but this seems not to be true. 
Pougin originally wrote that Verdi's father obtained for him a 
position with Barezzi and further remarked that 'without at all 
neglecting his duties he actively occupied himself with music'. To this 
'Folchetto' in the Italian edition added the note: 'Verdi had no 
duties of any kind, except those arising from his position as organist.' 
This note was ignored by Pougin in his later revision of his Verdi 
biography, but ' Folchetto ' probably had good reason for making the 
emendation. In an early biography, which is of some importance 
owing to the author's friendship with the Barezzi family and his use 
of material in their possession, Franco Temistocle Garibaldi refers 
to Verdi's 'life full of activity, in which the offices of shop assistant, 
or draper's boy, play little or no part — not to say they play no part 
at all — if the Libro di casa written day by day by the truthful pen of 
Signor Antonio has authority rather than the affirmations of hasty 
biographers who say they have heard'. 4 That is not an ideally clear 
statement, but suggests that Garibaldi too did not believe Verdi was 
ever employed by Barezzi. There is no mention of any such employ- 
ment in the manuscript Cenni biografici compiled in 1856 by Giuseppe 

1 Gatti, first edition, I, pp. 37-8; second edition, p. 39. 

2 The biographers frequently refer to the 'cathedral' of Busseto, the contemporary 
documents to the 'Collegiata'. There was no cathedral of Busseto, the town being within 
the diocese of the Bishop of Borgo San Donnino, the modern Fidenza. 

• Facsimiles of Verdi's application (the earliest surviving Verdi letter) and Provesi's 
letter of recommendation are given by Nullo Musini in his article ' II primo sfortunato 
concorso di Giuseppe Verdi' (Aurea Parma, fasc. 1, 1937). 

* Giuseppe Verdi nella vita e neWarte (Florence, 1904). 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 7 

Demalde of Busseto, who was probably a relative of Barezzi's wife. 1 
There is no mention if it, either, in Michele Lessona's Volere 2 potere 
(Florence, 1869), a book containing an account of the composer's 
early days for which he himself provided information." 

The application for employment as organist at Soragna was 
unsuccessful, and from this time forward Verdi began more and more 
to deputize for his master in all the manifold musical activities of 
Busseto as well as continuing his duties at Le Roncole. He taught 
younger pupils in the school of music, he played the organ in the 
church, he copied parts for the Philharmonic Society, directed their 
rehearsals and appeared frequently as pianist at the accademie held 
in Barezzi's house. He was accounted the best pianist in the district 
and was already composing a prodigious quantity of music for all the 
local functions. In a document in his own hand, dating from 1853, 
he declared : 

From my thirteenth to my eighteenth year (the age at which I went to 
Milan to study counterpoint) I wrote an assortment of pieces : marches 
for brass band by the hundred, perhaps as many little sinfonie, 3 that were 
used in church, in the theatre or at concerts, five or six concertos and sets 
of variations for pianoforte, which I played myself at concerts, many 
serenades, cantatas (arias, duets, very many trios) and various pieces of 
church music, of which I remember only a Stabat Mater. 4 ' 

An overture to The Barber of Seville was performed in the Busseto 
theatre in 1828, and Gatti mentions several other works from the 
same period, of which Barezzi kept a record. Provesi had taught 
Verdi all he knew and regarded him as his own equal. This is shown 
by the fact that at the end of 1831, when Verdi applied for financial 
assistance from the Monte di Pieta of Busseto, Provesi supplied him 
with a second testimonial, and in this he still declared that he had 
taught Verdi for four years — the period he had already mentioned in 
his letter of recommendation of two years earlier. From the autumn 
of 1829 until 1832 Verdi was thus Provesi's assistant, and no longer 
his pupil. This points to very definite limitations in Provesi's equip- 
ment. 

In Barezzi's house, where Verdi spent most of his time, he was 
treated like a beloved son, and from 14th May 1831 he abandoned his 
lodgings and lived there altogether. Barezzi had four daughters and 
two sons. The eldest daughter Margherita, born 4th May 1814, and 

1 The Cenni biografici, used and quoted by Gatti, were written for Carlo Viviani, 
editor of Fuggilozio, in which periodical Demalde hoped they would be published. The 
manuscript, together with some of the relative correspondence, is in possession of the 
Monte di Credito su Pegno at Busseto. 

2 See the letter to Arrivabene of 7th March 1874, in A. Alberti's Verdi intimo (Milan, 
1931). 

8 Probably single-movement works of the overture type. 

4 Facsimile in Nelprimo centenario di Giuseppe Verdi. Numero unico illustrate (Milan, 
1913). 



8 THE MAN VERDI 

thus seven months younger than Verdi, took singing and piano lessons 
from him. They fell in love. This was discovered by the mother and 
disclosed to Signor Antonio, who was not at all displeased. But it was 
time, if Verdi was to become his son-in-law, to look to the future. The 
possibilities of Busseto were exhausted. Verdi must complete his 
studies at Milan. So Carlo Verdi was persuaded by Barezzi to apply 
for one of the four monetary grants available to poor children of 
talent from the institution known as the Monte di Pieta e d'Abbon- 
danza. These grants were normally of 300 lire a year for four years. 
As is well known, Verdi received financial assistance from the Monte 
di Pieta, but the facts of the matter have been very much misunder- 
stood. The documents published by Gatti have not prevented later 
biographers from giving misleading accounts of what happened. 

Carlo Verdi's first application to the administrators of the Monte 
di Pieta was made on 14th May 1831. Seven months later he appealed 
to the Duchess of Parma, Marie Louise. On 14th January 1832 the 
administrators met to consider the case, having before them testi- 
monials provided by Provesi, by the schoolmaster Seletti and by a 
group of members of the Philharmonic Society headed by Barezzi. 
Barezzi had also guaranteed his financial support for a year. He knew, 
as well as the rest of Busseto, that none of the four scholarships was 
in fact vacant at this time, nor would be vacant until 1st November 
1833 — nearly two years later. The minutes of the meeting of 14th 
January show that two out of the six members of the council were 
against promising any pension in advance, while the other four were 
in favour of granting Verdi the first available pension, on condition of 
receiving regular good reports on his ability and progress. One 
Giovanni Bonatti specified ' one year of assiduous musical study in 
the Conservatorio at Milan, by means of Signor Antonio Barezzi's 
subvention' preliminary to the Monte di Pieta scholarship. 

Verdi's passport for Milan was issued on 22nd May and he travelled 
some time in the second half of June. Lodgings had been arranged 
for him, on a temporary basis, with Giuseppe Seletti, a school-teacher 
— nephew of his old master in the ginnasio of Busseto and a close 
friend of Barezzi's. On 22nd June Verdi applied in writing for 
admission to the Conservatorio as a paying pupil, under article 10 of 
the regulations, which permitted the acceptance of pupils over the 
normal age limit if they were exceptionally gifted. As everybody 
knows, after a brief examination his application was rejected. With 
the important recent exception of Alessandro Luzio, writers on Verdi 
have long ceased abusing the registrar Basily and his colleagues for 
this unfortunate decision. It is recognized that the Conservatorio 
authorities acted reasonably enough in the circumstances. Verdi's 
own account of these events is given in a letter to Jacopo Caponi of 
13th October 1880: 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 9 

In 1832, in June (I was not yet nineteen), I applied in writing to be 
admitted to the Milan Conservatorio as a paying pupil. Moreover I under- 
went a kind of examination at the Conservatorio, submitting some of my 
compositions and playing a piano piece before Basily, Piantanida, Angeleri 
and others, including old Rolla, to whom I had been recommended by my 
teacher at Busseto, Ferdinando Provesi. About a week later I went to 
Rolla, who said to me: 'Give up all idea of the Conservatorio; choose a 
teacher in the city; I suggest either Lavigna or Negri.' I heard nothing 
more from the Conservatorio. Nobody replied to my application. Nobody 
spoke to me, either before or after the examination, of the Regulations. 

This shows that the passage of nearly fifty years and the attainment 
of every conceivable ambition, material and artistic, did not suffice to 
wipe out the bitterness of that early setback, but Verdi's letter is not 
a trustworthy guide to what actually took place. His application must 
have been returned, for it was found among his papers after his death, 
and in it he specifically mentions the regulation concerning the age 
limit, upon which his only hope of entering the Conservatorio 
depended. The whole of this matter has been thrashed out in exemp- 
lary fashion by Carlo Gatti and need only be summarized here. Verdi 
failed to obtain admission because he was four years over the normal 
age limit, because he was, in Lombardo-Venetia, a 'foreigner', 
because the Conservatorio classrooms and dormitories were already 
overcrowded, and because the report on his piano-playing was 
unsatisfactory, so that it was not found expedient to make an 
exception in his case. Nobody has suggested that the compositions he 
was then producing were masterpieces, but the verdict on this side of 
his musical attainments was quite favourable. Basily' s report to Count 
Sormoni, director of the Conservatorio, is correct and apparently 
unbiased: 

Signor Angeleri, teacher of the pianoforte, found that the said Verdi 
would have need to change the position of his hand, which, he said, at the 
age of eighteen would be difficult. As regards the compositions that he 
presented as his own, I am in complete agreement with Signor Piantanida, 
teacher of counterpoint and vice-registrar, that if he [Verdi] applies himself 
attentively and patiently to study the rules of counterpoint, he will be able 
to control the genuine imagination he shows himself to possess, and thus 
turn out creditably as a composer. 1 

Basily further remarked that he was receiving continual complaints 
about the difficulties created by so many students having to work in 
the restricted space available and in particular by the fact that there 
was only one instrument for the use of all the pianoforte pupils. Count 
Sormoni, in his turn, suppressed these latter remarks of Basily's in 

1 Ludovico Corio, Ricerche storiche sul R. Conservatorio di Musica di Milano (Milan, 
1908). 



10 THE MAN VERDI 

passing on the report to the governing authorities, but added: 'As I 
have many times reported, restrictions of space in the dormitory make 
it impossible to accept him unless some other paying pupil leaves in 
the new school year.' With the use of the word 'impossible' by the 
director, Verdi's case was lost. It only remained for a civil servant to 
scribble underneath: 'Verdi is eighteen and is thus four years above 
the normal age; he is a foreigner; the pianoforte examination has 
shown he is not very talented [non ha disposizioni favor evoli]. It is 
proposed therefore to return the petition.' 

Luzio has published some letters from Giuseppe Seletti, with whom 
Verdi was staying at Milan, to Antonio Barezzi, concerning the 
Conservatorio examination. 1 They do not really justify revival of the 
old campaign against Basily and the other authorities, but are never- 
theless interesting as showing how things looked at the time to 
Verdi's supporters. Pending official notification of the result, Seletti 
did his best to pump the examiners, both personally and through an 
influential friend, Dr Frigeri. A letter of 4th July tells, apart from a 
lot of hearsay, how Angeleri had declared to Seletti himself that, 
asked by Basily for his honest opinion, he had replied that Verdi did 
not know how to play the piano and would never learn. Rolla and 
Carlo Coccia, another teacher, found this opinion of Angeleri's 
excessively derogatory and final, and Rolla promised to speak to 
Angeleri about it. But if he did so, he was already too late, for Seletti 
spoke to Rolla on 3rd July, and Basily's report is dated 2nd July. 

Similarly the unfortunate quarrel between Basily and Rolla at a 
rehearsal, mentioned in this letter, occurred after the official report 
had gone in and cannot have affected the issue. When the result of the 
examination was made known Seletti wrote again to Barezzi, freely 
criticizing everyone concerned: Basily was a man without character, 
Count Sormoni had acted solely in his own interests, Rolla and Frigeri 
had deceived him, saying one thing to his face and doing another 
thing behind his back, and so on. It was all natural enough in the cir- 
cumstances, but the official documents carry more weight than these 
peevish private expressions of disappointment, and there are no real 
grounds for questioning the integrity of the authorities. Luzio, who 
does so, refrains from quoting Basily's actual report. 

Verdi's rejection by the Conservatorio completely upset Barezzi's 
plans. His idea clearly had been for Verdi, had he been accepted as a 
pupil, to have commenced his studies at the Conservatorio after the 
long vacation, which lasted from the beginning of July until Novem- 
ber. The year for which Barezzi had guaranteed his expenses would 
then have come to an end just after the earliest date at which one of 
the Monte di Pieta pensions would have become available. Seletti 

1 'Verdi e il Conservatorio di Milano' (Nuova Antologia, 1st March 1937). Reprinted 
in Carteggi verdiani, IV (Rome, 1947). 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 11 

now told Barezzi he must make up his mind whether to recall Verdi 
to Busseto or not. One year's board, lodging and tuition in the 
Conservatorio would have cost 600 lire, but this sum would by no 
means suffice if Verdi was to remain in the city and study privately. 
Barezzi, to his eternal credit, his faith in his protege undimmed, 
prepared himself for further sacrifices. Verdi was to stay at Milan 
and study under Lavigna. Some idea of the cost of this may be 
gathered from the first accounts rendered to Barezzi by Seletti, 
which are reproduced in facsimile in Carlo Gatti's Verdi nelle 
immagini (Milan, 1941). Twelve lessons a month with Lavigna cost 
48 Austrian lire, hire of music cost 3 Austrian lire a month and 
Seletti charged 70 Milanese lire a month — equivalent to about 61 
Austrian lire — for board and lodging. So on these accounts alone 
Barezzi had to pay 1,344 Austrian lire a year, or considerably more 
than twice as much as had been anticipated, and more than four times 
as much as the annual pension available from the Monte di Pieta 
after November 1833. There were doubtless additional expenses. It is 
by no means certain that Carlo Verdi was able to keep his son 
decently clothed. Seletti's account has a postscript: 'I wrote you 
before that Maestro Lavigna told Verdi to take a season ticket for 
the theatre. Now Verdi tells me he cannot do so unless you instruct 
me to let him have the necessary money. Besides this, he says he 
needs money for music paper.' Everything was paid for by Barezzi, 
who also gave Verdi a square piano, to be seen today in the Scala 
Museum at Milan, with inlaid inscription: 'To Giuseppe Verdi. 
Barezzi Antonio. 1832.' 

What of the Monte di Pieta? How was the attitude of the adminis- 
trators affected by Verdi's failure to enter the Conservatorio? 
Documents published by Gatti 1 show that in January 1836, after a 
total payment of only 650 lire, the Monte di Pieta suspended Verdi's 
pension, on the completion of his studies at Milan. Barezzi, in a 
letter to the president of the council of the Monte di Pieta, protested 
against this course of action. He claimed that the full four years' 
pension was due, as, in order to make the utmost use of his time, 
Verdi had worked twelve months in the year, whereas the Conserva- 
torio year had only eight working months — from November to 
June. In the thirty-two months he had spent at Milan, Verdi had thus 
studied precisely as long as he would have done had he attended the 
Conservatorio for four full years. It seems that in the end, after 
Verdi's studies were completed and after prolonged haggling, Barezzi 
recovered the balance — 550 lire — of the full four years' pension, 1,200 
lire, towards the very much higher expenses in which he had involved 
himself; but this is a very different story from that told by most of the 

1 First edition, I, pp. 133-5 (second edition, pp. 115-16) and pp. 193-4 (omitted in 
second edition). 



12 THE MAN VERDI 

biographers. Francis Toye, for instance, writing of the Monte di 
Pieta pensions, says : 'Normally they were worth three hundred francs 
a year and were tenable for four years, but the administrators of the 
trust, with rare intelligence, managed to meet young Verdi's require- 
ments by allotting him six hundred francs for two years.' But in 
justice to Antonio Barezzi it needs to be pointed out that he took on 
his own shoulders almost the whole burden, that the Monte di Pieta 
did little until the end had been achieved, and that the sums paid out 
from November 1833 to December 1835, together with that later 
repaid to Barezzi, amounted certainly to not more than one-third of 
what he had actually expended. Probably, in all, Barezzi paid 
three-quarters of the expenses of Verdi's musical education. These 
facts help to explain the intense resentment aroused in the composer in 
later years whenever he was reminded of what he owed to Busseto 
and the Bussetani. In 1865, for example, when claims to which he 
objected were made upon him in connection with the newly built 
municipal theatre, he reacted violently: 

What? They dispose of me, of my will, of my means, without speaking 
to me, without consulting me? But this is more than unbecoming — it's an 
insult. What need of speaking to him about it? Oh, he'll do it. He'll have to 
do it. With what right do they act in this way? I know well that many of 
them, speaking about me, go about whispering a phrase I don't know 
whether more ridiculous or despicable — We made him ! — words that reached 
my ear the last time I was at Busseto, eight or ten days ago. I repeat that 
that is ridiculous and despicable. Ridiculous because I can reply: 'Why 
don't you make the others then?' Despicable, because nothing more was 
done than execute the terms of a legacy. But if they throw this benefit in 
my face, I can still reply : ' Gentlemen, I received a pension for four years, 
25 francs a month, 1,200 francs in all. That was thirty-two years ago. Let's 
draw up a bill of the capital and the interest, and I'll settle up.' The moral 
debt will always remain. Agreed. But I raise my head and I say with pride: 
'Gentlemen, I have carried your name with honour all over the world. 
That's well worth 1,200 francs.' 

We return now to the year 1832, to Milan, where Verdi has begun 
studying with Vincenzo Lavigna. On 8th August Seletti was able to 
tell Barezzi: 'He has already had five lessons, all of an hour and a 
half. Lavigna seems most attentive and in speaking both to me and 
to Dr Frigeri declared that Verdi is working hard and good results 
are promised.' Further: 'He has already made him write a sinfonia, 
which he will have performed later at a private gathering, held every 
Sunday, to which he has promised to introduce him. In short, 
everything is going well.' Verdi himself in later life gave some account 
of Lavigna and his studies with him, in a letter to Francesco Florimo : 

I have seen on other occasions that you knew that Lavigna was my 
master. And do you know who Lavigna was? Lavigna was a pupil of 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 13 

Fenaroli, who as an extremely old man still gave lessons in the College 
of ... (I no longer know which), but at the same time Lavigna took private 
lessons from Valente. Valente's name is little known to us, but you should 
know him well. Lavigna had a very high opinion of him, and if one may 
judge from five or six original fugues that Lavigna preserved, and by many 
fugue subjects that served also for my own studies, Valente was a contra- 
puntist very much more assured and profound than Fenaroli. Lavigna 
was taken (I believe in 1801) to Milan by Paisiello who was going to Paris 
for I don't know what purpose. Recommended by Paisiello, he wrote an 
opera for La Scala and settled down as maestro concertatore at that 
theatre, where he remained until 1832. In that year I knew him and studied 
counterpoint under his direction until 1835. Lavigna was very strong in 
counterpoint, a bit of a pedant, and had no use for any other music than 
that of Paisiello. I remember that in a sinfonia that I wrote he corrected 
all the scoring in the manner of Paisiello. 'I should be in a fix,' I said to 
myself— and from that moment I did not show him any more of my 
original compositions, and in the three years spent with him I did not do 
anything but canons and fugues, fugues and canons of all sorts. No one 
taught me orchestration and how to treat dramatic music. 

There you are, that's who Lavigna was. 

I add that he wrote seven or eight operas for Milan and Turin, with 
varied fortune. I repeat : he was learned, and I wish all teachers were like 
him. 

In the summary of his own early compositions, from which a 
quotation has already been given (page 7), Verdi says : 

In the three years I was at Milan, I wrote very few original compositions : 
two sinfonie, that were performed at Milan at a private concert in the 
Contrada degli Orefici (I can't remember any more in which house), a 
cantata that was performed at the house of Count Renato Borromeo and 
various pieces, most of them comic, which my master made me do as 
exercises and which were not even scored. 

It is fair to remember that Lavigna made Verdi hire scores each 
month from a music dealer, and that he advised him to take a season 
ticket for the opera house, where he would learn 'how to treat 
dramatic music' by practical example. The operas performed at La 
Scala in this winter season, 1832-3, were Donna Caritea, Ismalia and 
// conte d' Essex — all by Mercadante, Chiara di Rosemberg, Fernando 
Cortez and // nuovo Figaro — all by Luigi Ricci, Fausta by Donizetti, 
Caterina di Guisa by Carlos Coccia and Elena e Malvina by the 
Maltese composer Francesco Schira. It was on works like these, 
totally unfamiliar today, that Verdi was brought up. 

Verdi had been studying at Milan for twelve months when the 
news arrived from Busseto that his old teacher Provesi was dead. Thus 
the associated posts of maestro di cappella and organist of the col- 
legiate church and municipal music master fell vacant while Verdi, 



14 THE MAN VERDI 

considered by Barezzi and his friends as Provesi's pre-ordained 
successor, was still incompletely equipped. He remained at Milan 
and went on working. 

The position at Busseto was somewhat complicated. The ecclesi- 
astical and municipal authorities had each contributed to Provesi's 
salary. The Philharmonic orchestra, or town band, which he trained 
and directed, participated also in the church festivals. We do not 
know how long Provesi had been incapacitated by illness, but three 
months before his death he had written in agony of mind to a friend 
at Parma, imploring his intervention to save the Philharmonic Society 
of Busseto. Provesi was apparently less concerned for the difficulties 
of the church authorities, with whom he had a long-standing feud. 
He was a liberal, anti-clerical, and the composer of many a barbed 
epigram about the priests on whom he depended for half his salary. 
After his death the ecclesiastics, headed by the Provost, Don Gian 
Bernardo Ballarini, determined that the post should be filled by a 
candidate of their own, Giovanni Ferrari, maestro di cappella at 
Guastalla. Ferrari and two other musicians applied for the position 
and in November 1833 an application from Verdi himself was in 
Barezzi's hands. It was not presented, as verbal assurances were given 
that a competitive examination would be held. While waiting for an 
official announcement to this effect Verdi remained at Milan, doing 
all he could to equip himself as Provesi's successor. According to a 
letter from Lavigna to the administrators of the Monte di Pieta, in 
December 1833 he still needed about another year's study. 

It is extraordinary that the ecclesiastical authorities should have 
waited so long before showing their hand; while Verdi was away and, 
according to Lavigna himself, not yet qualified to call himself maestro 
di musica, Don Ballarini would seem to have had every right to 
appoint his own candidate as organist and music master of the 
church, and to have had an excellent opportunity to persuade the 
municipal authorities to accept his choice. Yet it was not until 18th 
June 1834, nearly a year after Provesi's death, that Ferrari was in fact 
appointed, without warning and without a competition, to the 
consternation of Barezzi and his friends of the Philharmonic Society. 
No small part of the general exasperation at Busseto is attributable 
to this delay, which left the musical side of the church services in the 
hands of incompetent substitutes and left the Philharmonic Society 
and the school of music without any leadership at all, so far as is 
known. Verdi, hastily recalled by Barezzi as soon as he learned what 
was happening, arrived at Busseto on the day of Ferrari's appoint- 
ment. On 20th June he sent in his own application for the post; on 
the next day the administrators of the Monte di Pieta decided to accept 
the appointment of Ferrari, subject only to their being satisfied as to 
his qualifications, Verdi's application being set aside as having been 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 15 

received too late. On 28th June Verdi protested and appealed in a 
letter to the Duchess Marie Louise. 

Barezzi was utterly disconcerted by these developments. The mayor 
of Busseto, Antonio Accarini, who had a place not only on the 
council of the Monte di Pieta but on that of the collegiate church, 
was an admirer of Verdi and should have been able to hold the church 
authorities to their promise of a competitive examination. He had been 
represented, however, by his deputy, the syndic Ferdinando Galluzzi; 
and this man, although an old friend of Barezzi's and another 
Verdian partisan, was held to have betrayed the cause. Passages in 
a letter from Galluzzi to Barezzi allow us a glimpse of the truth. 

Galluzzi recalls in this letter * how he himself had proposed at an 
early meeting of the church council that Provesi's post should be 
filled by competitive examination. This was agreed upon, subject to 
the approval of the Monte di Pieta, but in point of fact no approach 
was made to that body in succeeding months: 

Such was the position when the rumour arose from your house that 
Verdi no longer aspired to the vacant position, as he was dedicating him- 
self wholly to the study of music for the theatre and had already more 
profitable and attractive offers. Knowing the gossiping proclivities of not 
a few of my fellow-citizens, I took no account of the common rumour, 
but rather considered this tittle-tattle a trick of some adversary of Verdi's. 
In this state of affairs the not infrequent mishaps that occurred during the 
musical functions of the church induced the president to convoke the 
council for 18th June 1834. 1 had been told in confidence by a member of 
the council that at this meeting the matter of the maestro di cappella would 
be finally dealt with, and out of friendly regard I hastened to confide to 
you the object of the meeting, to learn whether Verdi still wished to 
compete, and if so to suggest hurrying up with the application. In the 
uncertainty due to the unexpected resolution of the council, you hesitated 
somewhat and asked me to find some way of postponing the business, 
as Verdi's arrival at Busseto was expected daily. . . . Being in doubt mean- 
while as to your real attitude, I wished for more certain information and 
questioned the betrothed of the candidate in question, by whom I was told 
frankly: 'Verdi will never, never settle at Busseto. First of all because by so 
doing he would interrupt his studies ; and secondly because, having devoted 
himself to music for the theatre, he looks for success in that and not in 
church music' She added: 'In the last analysis, any advantageous com- 
mission he has obtained would be invalidated and all his patrons let 
down.' (Your daughter's very words.) After such a decided reply, which I 
faithfully reported to you, I asked you once again what your decision was, 
and after brief reflection the only answer I got from you was : ' Let the 
council do what they like; I'm completely indifferent.' 

Galluzzi explains further that he did not feel, after this, that it rested 

1 Giovanni Drei, ' II concorso di Verdi a Busseto secondo nuovi document! ' (Aurea 
Parma, fasc. rv-v, 1939). 



16 THE MAN VERDI 

with him to fight Verdi's battles in the council, although he did point 
out that the proposed appointment of Ferrari was contrary to the 
decision of the earlier council meeting to fill the post by competitive 
examination. The reply to this was that one of the other two appli- 
cants had withdrawn and the other was ineligible, and 'as for Verdi, 
who it was formerly supposed would compete, it was known every- 
where that he did not want to do so any longer, having already a 
proposed engagement worth 3,000 francs'. 

This letter has the ring of truth, and indeed Barezzi himself after- 
wards recognized Galluzzi's loyalty and became reconciled with him. 
Clearly the house of Barezzi was at this time divided against itself. 
Verdi, who in November 1833 had aspired to Provesi's post at 
Busseto, had other things in view six months later. Margherita 
Barezzi, who was already spoken of as his fiancee, knew all about this, 
and took Verdi's part, naturally, wishing and hoping for his greater 
advancement and perhaps also dreaming herself of life in the great 
city of Milan. 'Verdi will never, never settle at Busseto. . . .' This 
passage of Galluzzi's letter is extraordinarily interesting, allowing us, 
as it does, almost to hear the actual voice of that shadowy figure, the 
girl who became Verdi's first wife. She speaks too in no uncertain 
terms. 

We must now refer back to the account of his own early years 
given by Verdi to Giulio Ricordi, for use in Caponi's revision of 
Pougin's biography. 

'In 1833 or 1834 there existed at Milan a Philharmonic Society 
composed of good vocalists : it was directed by Maestro Massini, a 
man who, if he had no great learning, was nevertheless painstaking 
and patient and thus of the sort required by a society of amateurs. 
A performance of Haydn's Creation was being prepared in the Teatro 
Filodrammatico and my master Lavigna asked me if, to gain experi- 
ence, I would like to attend the rehearsals. I accepted with pleasure. 
Nobody paid any attention to the young man sitting modestly in a 
dark corner. Three maestri — Perelli, Bonoldi and Almasio — con- 
ducted the rehearsals, but one day by a strange chance all three 
maestri concertatori failed to attend a rehearsal. The ladies and 
gentlemen were beginning to get impatient when Massini, who did not 
himself feel equal to the task of accompanying at the pianoforte from 
the full score, turned and asked me to act as accompanist, and 
perhaps because he had little confidence in a young and unknown 
artist, said to me: "It will be quite sufficient to play just the bass." 
I was fresh from my studies and certainly not at all embarrassed by a 
full orchestral score. I therefore accepted and sat myself down at the 
pianoforte to begin the rehearsal. I remember very well the ironical 
smiles of some of the signori dilettanti, and it seems that my youthful 
figure, lean and not too tidily dressed, was not such as to inspire 




Verdi's birthplace at Le Roncole 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 17 

much confidence. In short, the rehearsal began and, little by little 
warming up and getting excited, instead of confining myself to 
accompanying, I began also to conduct with my right hand, playing 
with my left hand alone. I had a great success — all the greater for 
being unexpected. At the end of the rehearsal compliments and 
congratulations from all sides, and especially from Count Pompeo 
Belgiojoso and Count Renato Borromeo. Finally, either because the 
three maestri mentioned above were too busy to take on the job, or 
for some other reason, in the end they entrusted the whole concert 
to me. The public performance took place, with such success that 
it was repeated later in the large hall of the Casino de' Nobili, 
in the presence of the Archduke and Archduchess Ranieri and all 
the high society of that day. Shortly afterwards Count Renato 
Borromeo engaged me to compose the music of a cantata — for the 
marriage of some member of his family I believe. It should be noted, 
however, that I got nothing out of all that, my services being entirely 
gratuitous.' 

The libretto of this performance of The Creation, in which Verdi's 
name appears as maestro al cembalo, shows that it took place in 
April 1834 1 — two months before the crisis at Busseto. Here surely is 
the source of all those stories of 'profitable and attractive offers', 
'commissions' and 'patrons'. The fact that he got nothing out of 
these commissions in the end does not mean to say that he did not at 
the time expect to get something out of them, or at least expect them 
to lead to more profitable engagements in the future. Verdi was 
beginning to spread his wings, and with the praises of his noble 
Milanese friends in his ears, the position of music master and organist 
at Busseto began to lose its attraction. Pietro Massini, the director of 
the Milanese Philharmonic Society, played an important role in the 
life of the young Verdi. He is referred to again in the postscript of a 
letter from Verdi to Lavigna, dated 5th August of this year: 'A few 
days after my arrival at Busseto I wrote to Massini, from whom I 
have not yet received a reply. So if you happen to see him remind 
him to reply about the libretto that Tasca was going to write for me. 2 
A libretto! This was Verdi's first operatic project. It remained a 
project only, and nothing more is heard of the poet Tasca, but from 
this time forward Verdi knew where he was going. He was ' dedicating 
himself wholly to the study of music for the theatre', as reported by 
the gossips of Busseto. In Galluzzi's apologia we have heard the echo 

1 A critique in the Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano of 20th April praises Massini and 
the singers, but does not mention Verdi. 

2 This letter was published by Giuseppe De Napoli in La Lettura for February 1928, 
and quoted, from this article, by Gatti (first edition, I. p. 83 ; second edition, p. 75). 
These writers have 'Nicolini' instead of 'Massini'. The name, however, is quite clear 
on the original in the Biblioteca Lucchesi-Palli, Naples. The mythical Nicolini has a 
separate entry on Gatti's index. He appears also in Franco Abbiati's Giuseppe Verdi 
(Milan, 1959), vol. i, p. 147. 



18 THE MAN VERDI 

of the hopes and the ambitions expressed in the young composer's 
lost letters to Margherita Barezzi. 

We must suppose that Verdi bowed to the will of his benefactor in 
sending in his own belated application for the Busseto appointment 
and in appealing over the heads of the local authorities to Marie 
Louise. His appeal, however, remained unanswered for another 
whole year, during which time, and during the succeeding eight or 
nine months before the position was actually regularized, something 
like civil war raged at Busseto. 

We read in the biographies of the almost incredible feuds which, in 
consequence of the appointment of Ferrari, divided this little town of 
two thousand inhabitants. The church was invaded by the members 
of the Philharmonic Society, who seized their music, refusing to 
allow it to be used by the priests or Ferrari. There were brawls in the 
streets, lampoons, arrests and prosecutions. And there has been no 
exaggeration here on the part of the biographers. The account in 
Pougin's book, taken from some articles by a resident of Busseto, is 
all substantially true; and there are enough documents concerning 
the wars of the 'Coccardini', the revolutionary Verdian party, and 
the 'Codini', the reactionary priestly set, supporters of Ferrari, to 
fill a volume. 

Both sides tried to influence the governmental decision. Francesco 
Cocchi, Presidente dell' Interno — the Home Secretary of the little 
state of Parma — received long reports from Monsignore Luigi 
Sanvitale, Bishop of Borgo San Donnino (Fidenza), who of course 
supported his rural dean at Busseto, the Provost Don Ballarini, in his 
appointment of Ferrari. He made excuses for the priests and blamed 
the young hotheads of the Philharmonic Society for all the disturb- 
ances. The bishop admitted that he was more concerned with 
morality than musical ability. 'Ferrari, a grown man, with the 
guarantees he gives, seems to me more to be depended on than a 
beardless youth who learned music in a populous city where the 
young are apt to be more attracted by the scandalous goings-on that 
swarm there in public than by the great virtues which lie hidden.' * 
In another letter he expressed his fears that a revolution would break 
out: 'Let the civil and military authorities then be ordered to watch 
attentively, to crush the rebellion at its birth.' 

The Verdi party hoped to influence Cocchi through one of his 
secretaries, Lorenzo Molossi, who was a friend of Barezzi's. The 
Mayor of Busseto, who tried hard to remain impartial, but whose 
sympathies were with Verdi, also sent in reports to Cocchi and 
himself received complaints from aggrieved citizens, such as Luigi 
Seletti, who declared that he had been insulted and threatened in the 
street by members of the Barezzi family. He had been accosted by 
1 Giovanni Drei, 'II concorso di Verdi a Busseto secondo nuovi documenti', loc. cit. 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 19 

Giovannino, Barezzi's elder son, and the following words were 
exchanged: 

'You infamous old man — it's not enough to stare and walk away.' 
'What business have you with me?' 

'You spoke evil of Verdi with Don Ubaldo Neri. I've just heard you, 
you slanderer, you old fibber, you old hypocrite!' 

Barezzi then threatened to thrash him and would have done so too, 
if he had not been restrained by the bystanders. The boy's mother 
then arrived and repeated what her son had said, adding: 'You 
infamous old man — it suffices to say that you hate even your own 
children.' 

The wars of the 'Codini' and the 'Coccardini' were subsequently 
celebrated by a local writer in a poem, Gli uccelli accademici, in nine 
cantos, in which Marie Louise appeared as the royal eagle, Cocchi 
as an owl, Molossi as a falcon, Barezzi and Margherita as a pair of 
blackbirds, Verdi as a parrot and Ferrari as the cuckoo in the nest. 

Verdi held aloof, as far as possible, from these unedifying squabbles. 
He stayed at Busseto from 18th June to 15th December, during 
which time he appeared at concerts with the Philharmonic band; 
then he returned to Milan and took up again his interrupted lessons 
with Lavigna. A well-known story, one of the additions of ' Folchetto ' 
to Pougin, tells how Verdi scored off Basily, who had been one of his 
examiners for the Conservatorio in 1832. Basily called to see Lavigna 
and the two discussed the deplorable result of a recent competition 
for the post of maestro di cappella of Monza Cathedral, when not one 
of the applicants had been able to produce a decent fugue on the given 
subject. Lavigna suggested that his pupil Verdi should try his hand 
on the same subject, which he did, surprising Basily by his fluency 
and mastery and adding a double canon, as he found the subject ' a 
little thin'. The examination of the candidates for the position at 
Monza took place on 26th November 1834, 1 while Verdi was at 
Busseto. Lavigna, as well as Basily, was among the examiners. It is 
clear that it must have been shortly after his return to Milan on 1 5th 
December 1834 that Verdi showed what he could do with Basily's 
theme, and it is probable that out of this incident the suggestion arose 
that he should himself apply for the post, which none of the com- 
petitors had been found capable of filling. This was to have violent 
repercussions at Busseto, as we shall see. 

In January 1835 the governmental decision was made known: 
Ferrari could consider himself organist of the collegiate church, but 
the post of maestro di musica had to be filled by a competitive 

1 G. Riva, La Cappella del Duomo di Monza e il concorso di Giuseppe Verdi (Monza, 
1907). There were nine applicants (two o fwhom failed to appear), and not twenty-eight, 
as the earlier biographers say. 



20 THE MAN VERDI 

examination. The Verdi party had won the battle. The ecclesiastics 
were still able to fight a rearguard action, however, and delayed 
further developments for a long time. In July 1835 Verdi completed 
his studies with Lavigna and returned to Busseto. Feelings were still 
running high. The police warned the mayor that it was known that 
some of the town councillors had even played a part in fomenting 
discord. The tavern of one Fantoni was the headquarters of some 
of the most obstinate partisans. Giacomo Demalde and Luigi 
Seletti x ('the 'old hypocrite') were named as promoters of strife and 
'sowers of tares' in the Ferrari party and, in the Verdi party, the 
coffee-house keeper Guarnieri and the chemist Luigi Macchiavelli. 
The dragoons were ordered to stand by. Poor Ferrari, who had six 
children, had been informed that the Monte di Pieta's contribution of 
357 lire per annum would now be put towards the salary of the music 
master to be elected. The municipal council, after a riotous meeting 
in the course of which six members walked out and an impassioned 
appeal was made that the youth of Busseto should not, by lack of 
support for the Philharmonic Society, be driven out of the temple of 
Apollo into that of Bacchus, voted a further 300 lire annually for 
the same purpose. On 29th August, in the hope of bringing an end to 
recurrent disgraceful scenes, a royal decree forbade the use of 
instrumental music in the churches of Busseto. This ban was to 
remain in force for seventeen years, until Verdi himself in 1852 
succeeded in getting it rescinded. 

Exasperated at the continuing delay, probably not uninfluenced by 
the ban on the Philharmonic Society's participation in the church 
festivals, and disgusted that the municipality of Busseto could, after 
all, offer him a salary of only 657 lire a year, Verdi wrote to Lavigna 
asking him to use his influence to help to procure him the still vacant 
position of maestro di cappella and organist to the cathedral of 
Monza. Lavigna's reply 2 shows that the possibility of Verdi's obtain- 
ing this post had already been discussed between them. As against 
the Busseto salary of 657 lire, which members of the Philharmonic 
Society were afterwards to raise to 1,000 lire, the post at Monza 
offered 2,200 lire, a house with firewood and lighting, and the possi- 
bility of earning another 700 lire by giving music lessons in a private 
school in the town. Lavigna and others exerted themselves on Verdi's 
behalf, and apparently it needed only his appearance at Monza for an 
interview for the whole business to be settled in his favour. But he 
never went there. His letter of excuse to Lavigna (15th December 
1835) continues the extraordinarily tangled tale of Busseto and its 
music master. No sooner was his impending departure known in the 

1 These names are confusing. There were Selettis and Demaldes on both sides. 

2 Luzio, Carteggi verdiani, IV, pp. 127-8. 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 21 

town than an unbelievable hubbub arose. The Ferrari party were 
delighted and insulted the Philharmonic members; the latter con- 
sidered they had been betrayed, and hurled abuse at Verdi and at 
Barezzi. Not only was Verdi sharply reminded of what he owed to 
the Monte di Pieta and the Philharmonic Society, but he was told 
that if he attempted to leave Busseto he would be held back by force! 
He wrote to Lavigna : 

If my benefactor Barezzi would not have had to suffer on my account 
the almost general hostility of the district, I should have left straight away; 
neither their reproaches about benefits nor their menaces would have been 
able to affect me. Even if I did receive from the Monte di Pieta a slender 
pension towards my support at Milan, this benefit ought not to purchase 
my degradation and slavery, or I should be constrained to consider the 
said benefit no longer a generous act, but a mean one. 

So solely on Barezzi's account Verdi gave up the well-paid Monza 
appointment and stayed at home. Within three months he was 
officially nominated maestro di musica to the commune of Busseto 
after examination at Parma by Giuseppe Alinovi. Ferrari did not 
compete. In a letter to Barezzi dated 29th February 1836 Verdi 
describes his experiences at Parma : 

On Saturday afternoon about three o'clock, I went to Alinovi and he 
examined me in the following subjects: pianoforte, singing, accompani- 
ment from score and sight-reading. First I played my Variations, which a 
little later I repeated, as Alinovi liked them very much and wished to 
understand them better. Then he put before me various theatrical pieces 
which I refused to play because I knew them already; however, I played 
the accompaniment to a duet by Donizetti, full of mistakes (made on 
purpose, I believe, so that I should correct them while playing), and the 
thing went very well and Alinovi was very satisfied. To assure him that I 
was playing the new pieces at sight I asked for something of his own and 
he gave me a very beautiful Laudate, which I played without stumbling. 
With Alinovi I played a sonata by Herz for piano duet, and he was very 
pleased. . . . Yesterday I went to Alinovi at eight o'clock in the morning 
and a subject was given me for a fugue in four real parts, which I finished 
yesterday evening after six o'clock. The maestro examined it and said in 
my presence what Molossi wrote in his letter to Finola. 

'Finola' was the nickname of Giuseppe Demalde; here is what 
Molossi wrote to him on this occasion : 

As Verdi's modesty does not permit him to say for himself how things 
stand, I'll tell you that yesterday about six o'clock he finished his work 
and Maestro Alinovi, after having examined it carefully, rose to his feet 
and said to Verdi: 'So far I have played the part of a rigorous examiner; 
now I play that of an admirer. This fugue is worthy of a consummate 
master; it deserves to be printed. You have enough knowledge to be 
maestro in Paris or London, rather than at Busseto. I confess that I should 



22 THE MAN VERDI 

not have been able to do in a whole day what you have done in a few 
hours. 1 

This was a splendid tribute both to Verdi and to Lavigna, his teacher 
at Milan. 

His position assured, Verdi became officially engaged to Margherita 
Barezzi on 16th April and on 4th May they were married. The 
contract with the municipality of Busseto was for nine years, but 
terminable by either party at the end of three or six years, provided 
that notice had been given six months earlier. Verdi was in fact to 
give notice six months before the termination of the first three years, 
his supposed obligation to Busseto finally absolved. 

Verdi and Margherita lived, according to local tradition, in the 
Palazzo Tedaldi, which still exists in rather dilapidated condition, at 
the far end of the Via della Biblioteca, occupying the whole space 
between this and the end of the Via dell' Ospedale, another parallel 
street, at right angles to the main street of the town. 2 

This was a period of family joys and sorrows; two children were 
born, the elder of which died a month after the younger came into 
the world. Musically, they were years of frustration for Verdi, whose 
thoughts turned now increasingly towards Milan and La Scala. He 
was busy enough with the school of music and the Philharmonic 
Society. In the document already twice quoted he says of this period: 

Back again in my home town, I began to write marches, sinfonie, vocal 
pieces, etc., a complete Mass, a complete set of Vespers, three or four 
settings of Tantum ergo and other church music that I don't recall. Among 
the vocal pieces there were choruses from the tragedies of Manzoni for 
three voices, and // cinque Maggio for solo voice. 

Before his appointment Verdi had played the organ in the Franciscan 
church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which was not under the juris- 
diction of his enemy Don Ballarini. A letter from Demalde to 
Giuseppe Martini 3 describes how the Franciscan church was crowded 

1 Verdi's letter to Barezzi and Molossi's to Demalde both quoted by Gatti, I, pp. 
121-2 (second edition, pp. 106-7). But Gatti, as Luzio points out (Carteggi verdiani, 
IV, p. 76), has not understood who 'Finola' was. He includes also a few reading errors 
('Minola' for 'Molossi' and 'quartetto' for 'duetto'), as may be seen from the repro- 
duction of Verdi's letter in Lualdi's Viaggio musicale in Italia (Milan, 1927); Abbiati 
(I, p. 221) knows who 'Finola' was, but takes over Gatti's reading errors. 

2 Gatti (first edition, I, pp. 130-1; second edition, p. 112) refers to the 'Palazzo 
Rusca', following F. T. Garibaldi (op. cit. p. 46). No one in Busseto today can identify 
a 'Palazzo Rusca'. But Garibaldi, as we see from his description of Busseto (p. 3), is 
referring to a house in the main street just beyond the Monte di Pieta, 'then that of the 
Marchese Tedaldi, which formerly belonged to the Rusca family'. These old houses are 
known either by the names of their original owners, or by those of their present pro- 
prietors. Just beyond the Monte di Pieta is the original Palazzo Dordoni, called today 
'Palazzo Orlandi', which Verdi purchased in 1845 and inhabited with Giuseppina 
Strepponi from 1849 to 1851. But this is not identical with the Palazzo Tedaldi. Abbiati 
(I, pp. 226-7 and elsewhere), also refers to 'Palazzo Rusca', without attempting to 
identify it. 

3 Carteggi verdiani, IV, p. 73. 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 23 

on this occasion and the collegiate church, to the extreme annoyance 
of the provost, almost deserted. Probably the church music mentioned 
was also mostly performed at the Franciscan church, although a 
surviving Tantum ergo, 1 composed in November 1836, has an inscrip- 
tion on the manuscript stating that it was first sung by the Verdian 
partisan Macchiavelli in the collegiate church of San Bartolomeo on 
1st January 1837. This would have been carrying the war into the 
enemy's camp with a vengeance, but the inscription, referring to 
Verdi as 'Cavaliere', is obviously a much later addition and may be 
misleading. This Tantum ergo reflects the conditions prevailing at 
the time it was written: it has orchestral accompaniment, but is 
provided also with a separate organ accompaniment in view of the 
ban on instrumental music in the churches of Busseto. The use of the 
organ in support of the singers was apparently assumed still to be 
permitted. 

A letter from Demalde to Lorenzo Molossi, dated 31st January 
1837, mentions concertos or divertimenti written by Verdi for clarinet, 
for two horns, and for trumpet, performed by members of the 
Philharmonic Society. All the signori dilettanti had to be provided 
with opportunities to show their skill. Here is the programme of a 
typical Accademia, given in the communal theatre at Busseto on 
25th February 1838: a 

Part 1 

1 Grand Overture to Semiramide by Signor Maestro Rossini. 

2 Capriccio for horn by Signor Maestro Verdi, performed by Signor 
Dilettante Vincenzo Magnani. 

3 Recitative and Aria by Signor Maestro Verdi, performed by Signor 
Rusca. 

4 Introduction to Eduardo e Cristina (Rossini), arranged for instruments. 

Part 2 
Comedy by Eugene Scribe, entitled The Artists' Garret. 

Part 3 

1 Introduction, Variations and Coda for bassoon, by Signor Maestro 
Verdi, performed by Signor Dilettante Luigi Bottarelli. 

2 Buffo duet by Signor Maestro Verdi, performed by Signori Dilettanti 
Macchiavelli and Guarnieri. 

3 Overture by Signor Maestro Meyerbeer. 

It is pleasing to find, in the second item of the third part of this con- 
cert, two of Verdi's most perfervid supporters, who had been repri- 
manded by the police in 1835, singing a comic duet together. 

1 In the Scala Museum, Milan. 

2 A number of these hand-written programmes are in the Museum at Busseto. 



24 THE MAN VERDI 

Unfortunately Verdi does not mention, among his compositions 
of this period, that one about which we should most like precise 
information — the lost opera, Rocester. This work, in its possible 
relationship to Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, the earliest surviving 
Verdi opera, presents a thorny problem. 

In the account of his early life given by Verdi to Ricordi for use in 
the Italian revision of Pougin's book, the composer says that after 
the Creation performances : 

Massini, who seems to have had confidence in the young Maestro, then 
proposed that I should write an opera for the Teatro Filodrammatico, of 
which he was director, and handed me a libretto that afterwards, in part 
modified by Solera, became Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio. I accepted 
the offer with pleasure, and returned to Busseto, where I was engaged as 
organist. I stayed at Busseto about three years; the opera finished, I 
undertook once more the journey to Milan, taking with me the complete 
score in perfect order, having gone to the trouble of copying out all the 
vocal parts myself. But here the difficulties began. Massini was no longer 
director of the Teatro Filodrammatico. So it was no longer possible to 
give my opera. However, either because Massini really had confidence in 
me, or because he wished to show his gratitude to me in some way — for 
after Haydn's Creation I had assisted him on several other occasions, 
rehearsing and conducting various performances (including Cenerentola) 
without ever claiming any compensation — he was not discouraged by 
difficulties, but told me he would do all he could to have my opera per- 
formed at La Scala, at the benefit performance for the Pio Istituto. 

Massini, with the help of the cellist Vincenzo Merighi of the Scala 
orchestra, succeeded in persuading the impresario Bartolomeo 
Merelli to put on Verdi's opera for one of these charity performances, 
and rehearsals with the soloists were actually begun, when the illness 
of the tenor, Napoleone Moriani, caused the whole project to be 
abandoned. Then, largely through the interest shown by the soprano, 
Giuseppina Strepponi, Oberto was accepted for production at La 
Scala in the following season, with a different company of singers. 
' I had to modify the tessitura of some parts of the music and to write 
a new piece, the quartet, the dramatic situation of which was sug- 
gested by Merelli himself, and which I had versified by Solera.' 

Apart from this, most of the documentary evidence we have con- 
cerning Verdi's first opera or operas is found in his surviving letters 
to Massini, of which there are nine. 1 It is very difficult, or impossible, 
to reconcile Verdi's own account with the evidence of these letters. 

As we have seen, Verdi, interrupting his studies, returned from 

1 One was published by O. Boni, (Verdi, I'uomo, le opere, Vartista, Parma, 1901), 
three more by Luzio (' Epistolario Verdiano ', in La Lettura, March 1905), four previously 
unknown ones by Claudio Sartori ('Rocester, la prima opera di Verdi', in Rivista 
musicale italiana, Jan.-Feb. 1939) and another by Abbiati (I, p. 240; an extract previously 
in Lo Smeraldo, 30th Nov. 1950). Failure to consult all these letters, in chronological 
order, has led many biographers into confusion. 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 25 

Milan to Busseto on 18th June 1834, and on 5th August of this year 
mentioned an opera libretto which was to have been written for him 
by a certain Tasca. 1 Nothing further is known about this, but it is of 
interest that already Massini is named as the intermediary. Verdi 
returned to Milan on 15th December. The performance of Rossini's 
Cenerentola by the Philharmonic Society took place early in April 
1835, and all concerned were warmly commended by the critic of the 
theatrical paper 77 Figaro on 8th April: 

. . . Praise to Massini, and to Maestro Verdi who conducted it ; praise to 
the singers who performed it; to the orchestra, to the chorus, to everybody. 

His studies with Lavigna completed, the composer went back again 
to Busseto in July 1835. On 28th July he told Massini in the earliest 
of the surviving letters : 

I am writing the opera (as you know) and by the time you return to 
Milan I hope to have sketched out all the pieces. Advise me about all the 
singers you have heard in the concert that by now you will have given, so 
that I can take into consideration the range of the voices. 

The phrase 'Io scrivo l'opera' in this letter suggests that the work had 
actually been commenced. But it must have been intended in the 
sense: 'I am going to write the opera' or 'It is settled that I shall 
write the opera', for the next letter to Massini, six months later, shows 
that nothing had yet come of this project : 

To Massini, 24th January 1836: 

I am sorry not to have kept my word to you. I promised you before 
leaving Milan to return soon to write the opera, but then I was not free, 
and so I have not been able to keep my promise. If I am appointed Maestro, 
the municipality grants me two months' holiday, September and October, 
and then (if you consent) I am ready to keep my word. It will be a great 
piece of good fortune for me if I can write an opera, and be assured that 
my gratitude to you will be everlasting. 

Eight months later the opera was almost completed. 

To Massini, 16th September 1836: 

I have long been anxious to have news from you, but the cholera has 
suspended our intercourse until now. I am the same as ever and am await- 
ing a definite reply about the opera. I foresee that there will be difficulties 
and for this reason wish all the more to hear from you. Meanwhile I 
advise you that I have finished the opera, except for those short passages 
that will have to be patched up by the poet. 

1 Probably the poet Ottavio Tasca. A letter from Tasca to Verdi, about the success of 
Ernani in Vienna, was published in the Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano for 8th June 
1 844. From this letter it is clear that Tasca and Verdi had never actually met. 



26 THE MAN VERDI 

To Massini, 15th October 1836: 

From your last letter I understand what you tell me about the opera, 
and although you still hold out hopes I foresee clearly that we shall not 
do anything about it this year. 

From this group ofletters we see that those who, like Toye, seeking 
to explain why Verdi apparently took as long as three years over the 
composition of his first opera, imagined that he had not yet acquired 
his mature fluency, were very wide of the mark. Apart from his own 
remarks quoted elsewhere about 'marches for brass band by the 
hundred' with 'perhaps as many little sinfonie\ which he turned out 
at a very early age, we see that Verdi expected to be able to complete 
his first opera in two months, and did in fact practically complete it 
some time between 24th January and 16th September 1836. 

The Mayor of Busseto, in a document from the same year, 1 
mentions this opera completed by Verdi, 'which may possibly be 
heard at the Ducal Theatre', i.e. at Parma. This is an important link 
in the chain of evidence. 

The next letter to Massini, a year later, mentions the proposal to 
perform the opera at Parma and gives the name of the librettist, 
Antonio Piazza, and the title, which is not Oberto, Conte di San 
Bonifacio, but Rocester. 

To Massini, 21st September 1837: 

It is not unlikely that I shall be able to put the opera Rocester on the 
stage at Parma this Carnival, so please go with the bearer of this letter 
(who is a confidential friend of mine) to the author of the libretto, Piazza, 
and put the matter before him. If Piazza wishes to alter the verses here and 
there we are still in time, and I do indeed beg him to prolong the duet for 

the two women, to make it a more grandiose piece Oh, I should have 

liked to put on Rocester at Milan ! but I see only too well myself that I am 
too far away to arrange everything necessary. 

To Massini, 3rd November 1837: 

I spent a few days at Parma waiting for the new Impresario, a certain 
Granci, of Lucca. Meanwhile I secured the support of the Theatre Com- 
mission and the orchestra, all of which I was able to do easily, for to tell 
you the truth, not owing to my merits, I enjoy some credit at Parma. I had 
besides found influential people who showed themselves willing to help me. 
The day before yesterday the Impresario finally arrived. I presented myself 
to him at once in the name of the Commission and without preamble he 
replied that it didn't suit him to risk putting on an opera of uncertain 
outcome. ... If I hadn't been the first to speak to him I should have 
thought that some enemy had maligned me to him, but that wasn't possible. 
I returned home angry and without the slightest hope. Poor young people ! 
What a time they have of it, studying without ever a reward! Tell me, 
wouldn't it be possible to speak to Merelli, to see if it could be performed 

1 Gatti, first edition, I, pp. 134-5; second edition, pp. 115-16. 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 27 

at some theatre at Milan? Tell him first of all that I should like the score 
to be submitted for examination by musicians of standing, and if their 
judgment were unfavourable I should not wish the opera to be performed. 
You would be doing me the greatest service. Perhaps you would be able to 
rescue me from obscurity, and I should be eternally grateful to you. Go 
to see Piazza and talk it over. 

Here is the first reference in these letters to Merelli, impresario of 
La Scala. All idea of performance at the Teatro Filodrammatico 
would seem to have been already abandoned. We know from Verdi's 
own account that it was Massini who was chiefly responsible for 
arranging with Merelli that Oberto should be performed at La Scala 
in 1839. What we don't know is how far, if at all, Rocester, composed 
in 1836 and rejected at Parma in 1837, was related to Oberto. 

At the beginning of May 1838 Verdi spent a few days at Milan 
alone (Margherita was expecting her second child). Then during his 
holidays in September and October of the same year he was there 
again, with Margherita. Letters to Barezzi from this period contain 
hints about a 'very important affair', details of which were to be 
conveyed by word of mouth. But a letter to an unnamed enthusiast at 
Busseto, enclosed in one to Barezzi on 6th October, tells us a good 
deal: 

How the devil did you get the idea in your head that my opera is to be 
put on the stage by the 15th of this month? I never said or wrote that. . . . 
I '11 tell you frankly that I came here to negotiate about the opera, but the 
season was too far advanced, and three operas having already been per- 
formed, with a cantata and three more operas to follow, already promised 
to the public (an enormous task), there is no time left to put on mine with 
the decorum required. 

It could perhaps be performed in the next Carnival season; but it's a 
matter of a new opera, written by a new composer, to be staged in the first 
theatre in the world ; I want still to think it over thoroughly. If you want 
the placard, wait until the spring for it. Then, if not before, you will 
certainly get it. 1 

Verdi had clearly met with encouragement. He had received what he 
took to be definite promises that his opera would be performed at La 
Scala in the following year, in the Carnival or spring seasons. But 
there was still something about which he had to think seriously. Did 
this merely concern changes in the libretto, considered necessary by 
himself, or by Piazza or Merelli? Or did perhaps Rocester, composed 
in 1836, no longer seem to Verdi fully representative of his powers in 
1838? If La Scala was opening its doors to him, would it not be better 
to write for it an entirely new work? Whatever negotiations took 
place, they were probably indirect; a letter to Opprandino Arrivabene 
of 7th March 1874 says that, even in the spring of 1839, he had never 
yet spoken to Merelli. 

1 Gatti, first edition, I, pp. 150-1 ; second edition, p. 129. 



28 THE MAN VERDI 

On his return from Milan Verdi sent in his notice of resignation to 
the municipality of Busseto. 

It is clear that the earlier biographers, including Gatti in his first 
edition, mistook references to Rocester, in the earlier letters to 
Massini, for references to Oberto. Claudio Sartori, in publishing the 
partially unknown letters in the Autografoteca Pasini at Brescia, 1 put 
forward the suggestion that Oberto was only a remodelling of 
Rocester. This suggestion was adopted without argument by Gatti, 
in his second edition, and by Abbiati. An American lady, Kathleen 
O'Donnell Hoover, taking almost the whole of her material from 
Sartori, has gone far beyond him in claiming to have proved that 
Oberto and Rocester were in fact one and the same. 2 But she is only 
able to do this by quite reckless manipulation of the facts. She tells 
us : 'Years later, in a reminiscent letter to Count Opprandino Arriva- 
bene, the composer himself states that his first opera was Oberto, and 
that it was written in 1836.' Now if Verdi ever had made such a 
statement it would go a long way towards convincing us that Rocester 
and Oberto were indeed identical, but the only quotation Mrs Hoover 
furnishes from 'Verdi's own statement, in later years, to Arrivabene' 
turns out to be an extract from the account given to Ricordi for use 
in the Italian version of Pougin's biography; and neither there, nor 
in any letter to Arrivabene or to anyone else, does the composer state 
that Oberto was his first opera and that it was written in 1836! 
Further, Mrs Hoover points to the letter to Massini of 21st September 
1837, with its reference to 'the duet for the two women' in Rocester, 
which Verdi wished prolonged, to make it more grandiose. She tells 
us : ' Oberto contains two impressive duets, in each of which aspira- 
tions to a grandiosity not quite realized may be discerned — one (Act 
I, Scene i) for Oberto, Count of San Bonifacio and his daughter . . . 
the other (Act I, Scene ii) for the two women, Leonora and her rival 
Cuniza.' This is fantastic: there is in reality no duet for the two 
women in Oberto ! The second duet is for Cuniza and Riccardo. 

Such evidence as we have then suggests that the two operas were 
not identical in their musical contents. There was a duet for the two 
women in Rocester; there is no such duet in Oberto. 

An important letter, which until recently has escaped everyone's 
notice, is preserved in the Scala Museum at Milan. It is to Emilio 
Seletti, the son of the man with whom Verdi stayed when he first 
came to live at Milan : 

Sant' Agata, 14th May 1871. 
Dear Signor Emilio, 

Oberto di San Bonifacio was altered and added to by Solera, on the basis 
of a libretto entitled Lord Hamilton by Antonio Piazza, a government 

1 'Rocester, la prima opera di Verdi' (Rivista musicale italiana, Jan.-Feb. 1939). 

2 'Verdi's Rocester" {Musical Quarterly, Oct. 1942). 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 29 

employee, then writer of feuilletons for the Gazzetta di Milano. Neither in 
Lord Hamilton nor in Oberto is there a line by Luigi Balestra. 

My wife reciprocates your greetings; please give my regards to your 
mother. 

Yours sincerely, 
G. Verdi. 

Seletti was probably already collecting information for his book, La 
Citta di Busseto (3 vols., Milan, 1883), which contains details of the 
Selettis, Barezzis and Balestras, among other illustrious Bussetani. 
Verdi might have mentioned that Luigi Balestra did provide words 
for a duet which he intended to add to Oberto on its revival at Genoa 
in 1841. However, the chief interest of this letter is the reference to 
Piazza's libretto Lord Hamilton, which seems to dispose of the theory 
that Oberto was based on Rocester. Piazza appears to have had a 
predilection for fantasies about the British aristocracy; in the 
Gazzetta Musicale di Milano for 16th, 23rd and 30th June 1847 he 
published a story about a love affair between the composer Pergolesi 
and Miss Betzi Bulwer, daughter of the British Ambassador Extra- 
ordinary to the King of the Two Sicilies. 

Abbiati * assumes that there was a double change, Lord Hamilton 
becoming Rocester, and Rocester becoming Oberto, but he does so on 
no evidence at all. Were 'Lord Hamilton' and 'Rocester' two 
characters in the same opera, and did Verdi in 1871 give its title 
wrongly? Without some such dubious assumption we must conclude 
that by 1879, when he gave his account to Ricordi, two early operas 
had become confused in his memory and condensed into one. This 
would be astonishing, but not more astonishing than other things in 
the same account, such as the confusion about the deaths of his wife 
and children, or the remark, ' I . . . returned to Busseto, where I was 
engaged as organist', which drastically over-simplifies the compli- 
cated events leading up to his appointment as music master of 
Busseto and makes a completely false claim to a position that was 
never his, but Ferrari's. 

Much of the history of Oberto is still unclear. The following points 
are worth noting in case they combine with other evidence that may 
come to light: 

(1) The Cenni biografici of Giuseppe Demalde state that Verdi completed 
the score of Rocester in the spring of 1838. This is incorrect, because 
this opera is named already in letters of 1837, but it is interesting that 
Demalde mentions the work, and differentiates between it and Oberto. 

(2) A note in the Italian edition of Pougin's biography — one of the 
additions by 'Folchetto' — says that Oberto was written at Busseto in 
the winter of 1837-8. Everybody has ignored this statement, which 
conflicted with the long prevalent idea that Verdi spent three years 

1 1, pp. 200, 205, 222, 232-5, 326. 



30 THE MAN VERDI 

over his first opera; but it fits in well enough with the evidence from 
the letters to Massini, and suggests that Merelli may not have approved 
of Rocester, when approached by Massini as a result of Verdi's letter 
of 3rd November 1837, and that a fresh libretto may then have been 
provided. If confirmed, this would of course dispose of the tentative 
suggestion advanced above, that Verdi decided to replace Rocester 
with Oberto after his visit to Milan in the autumn of 1838. 

(3) Part of the manuscript libretto of Oberto is in the Scala Museum. It 
is in Solera's hand. 

(4) The manuscript full score of Oberto in Messrs Ricordi's archives shows 
signs of much alteration. Pages and groups of pages, with whole scenes 
and musical numbers, have been taken out and replaced. But the 
names of the characters have not been altered. Oberto was already 
Oberto before all this revision began. 

(5) Oberto, as we have it, is not really a two-act opera, but a three-act 
opera of which the first act was never written. A whole page of explana- 
tion, printed in the libretto, is needed to put the spectator in a position 
to follow the action from the point where the opera itself begins. This 
page of explanation probably summarizes the action of the missing 
first act. In a letter to Barezzi of 3rd September 1846 Verdi's pupil 
Muzio writes: 'Marini wants also to sing Oberto but the Signor 
Maestro, whom they had asked to make some alterations, would not 
consent, because, he says, all the first act would be needed, and a 
month and a half to do it, and he hasn't time.' It looks very much as if 
Verdi and Solera had been told to keep the opera short, if they wanted 
it put on at La Scala. 

On 6th February 1839 Verdi and his family left Busseto, to take up 
residence permanently at Milan. A lively picture of the city as Verdi 
knew it is given by Antonio Ghislanzoni in his mordant Storia di 
Milano dal 1836 at 1848, } What Ghislanzoni, writing from his own 
experience, has to say almost justifies the worst premonitions of the 
Bishop of Borgo San Donnino. The city, of not more than 150,000 
inhabitants, was still contained within the bastions. The streets were 
lit by oil lamps, the pavements crossed by runnels 'which did not 
smell of musk'. The cathedral was admired by strangers but used as 
apisciatoio by the local inhabitants, and on its steps the black market 
flourished every night. Houses of ill fame were to be found in the 
centre of the city, near the cathedral. Fashionable Milan woke up at 
about eleven o'clock, though the true 'lions' of society did not appear 
until 1 p.m. Top hats were worn by the elegant at Porta Renzo and 
in the public gardens, but it was dangerous to be seen in them in the 
poorer districts. There were fierce regional antagonisms within the 
bastions, as between village and village; and at Porta Ticinese, towards 
dusk, a decently dressed person risked being stoned. (Verdi lived near 
Porta Ticinese.) Performing fleas in a shop in the Corsia del Duomo 
attracted all Milan. Among the milling crowds in the streets were seen 

1 Published with In Chiave di Baritono (Milan, 1882). 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 31 

the Austrian soldiers, Austrian officials in civilian dress, portly 
monsignori from the cathedral, police continually on patrol and 
students from the Conservatorio, in a uniform not unlike that of the 
police; above the customary shouting, the cracking of whips, the 
noisy games of mora in the osterie, were heard from numerous 
slaughter-houses the dying groans and squeals of calves and pigs. 
Loose women invited custom from doors and windows. Thieves were 
everywhere. Everyone raised his hat when the Austrian viceroy, the 
Archduke Ranieri or the Austrian archbishop, Count Gaisruck, 
passed in their six-horse carriages. Only the viceroy and the arch- 
bishop were permitted to use six horses. 

Drunkenness was rife. The Teatro della Canobbiana and Teatro 
Carcano were the scenes of unspeakable orgies when the public balls 
took place. Young men about town got drunk on port or Madeira, 
and ended by poisoning themselves with absinthe, introduced into 
Milan about 1840. All serious men shaved from nose to throat. 
Students who grew beards or moustaches risked compromising their 
whole future by expulsion from the examination room. Smoking in 
public was not permitted. A few idlers who appeared with cigars in 
their mouths on the bastions, or in the public gardens while the band 
was playing, were considered extremely daring. 'Ladies, at the 
approach of a cigar, pretended to faint; at the sight of a pipe both the 
gentle and the sterner sex stood aghast.' The eight-mile railway 
between Milan and Monza was considered a wonder of the world. 
'The old cried: "Now that I have seen this marvel I am content to 
die!" And several did, in fact, die.' The opening of the first coffee 
houses caused an immense sensation. At the hotels, the Falcone, the 
Corona, the Agnello, lodging could be had for one Austrian lira a 
day; at the Osteria della Foppa a three-course lunch could be got for 
the same price. Both hotels and osterie were lit by wax candles : ' Soot 
rained into the soup' and a boy was employed to flick away the 
smuts at every change of dishes. 

The literati gathered at the CafTe del Duomo, where the Journal 
des Debats and other foreign papers were available. Elsewhere only 
the official Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano and the various theatrical 
papers were read. The theatre was the greatest preoccupation of 
cultured society. It was dangerous to talk politics, and those who did 
so too openly were generally supposed to be spies and agents provoca- 
teurs. Nobody bothered very much. 'Men who thought of Italy, 
who chafed at the foreign yoke, who abhorred Austria, were very few 
in number. Most people did not know that Italy existed.' 

Verdi's first published compositions had been a set of six Romanze 
— songs with piano accompaniment — issued in 1838 by Giovanni 
Canti, at Milan. They included settings of two Goethe translations 
by Luigi Balestra, of Busseto. Two more songs, one of them also with 



32 THE MAN VERDI 

words by Balestra, and a Nottumo for soprano, tenor and bass with 
flute obbligato, were printed by the same publisher in 1839. A para- 
graph about the Nottumo appeared in the Gazzetta Privilegiata di 
Milano for 13th April 1839: 'Maestro Giuseppe Verdi has added to 
his other admired musical compositions a new work that is an 
inspiration, an enchantment of delicate sound. . . .' This is remark- 
able, for the Gazzetta did not normally occupy itself with such things. 
On 22nd April Verdi wrote to Giuseppe Demalde ('Finola') of 
Busseto : x 

The advice you give me concerning my opera is very just, and as soon 
as I got to Milan, having heard what the singers were like, I disengaged 
myself at once, although with great displeasure. In my place, Maestro 
Speranza of Parma is going to write. Poor young fellow ! I wish him luck, 
but I'm very dubious about it. 

My score is still wrapped up, but is, however, not asleep. I tell you this 
in secret : perhaps it will be performed at La Scala, with Moriani, Ronconi, 
la Strepponi and la Kemble. I can't be sure of it yet, but I hope so. . . . 
Enough — soon, perhaps within a week, I shall write to you on the subject. 

This shows again how complicated and confused the story of the 
production of Oberto is, and how over-simplified are all the accounts 
of it by Verdi himself and his biographers. The letter to a friend at 
Busseto of 6th October 1838, already quoted, speaks of performance 
at La Scala in the Carnival or spring seasons. Yet the first paragraph 
of this letter to Demalde shows that Verdi had returned to Milan 
with the prospect of his opera being performed at another theatre — 
not La Scala — and withdrew from this because he disapproved of the 
singers available. Was this the Teatro Filodrammatico again? It is 
impossible to say. Even 'Maestro Speranza of Parma', who was to 
replace Verdi at this theatre, is not certainly identifiable. 2 

As told already, hopes of production at La Scala again faded with 
Moriani's illness, and then again revived. Further alterations were 
made to the text, the voice parts were revised to suit other singers and 
the quartet was added at Merelli's suggestion. Oberto was finally 
produced at La Scala on 17th November 1839, with fair success. It 
was performed fourteen times. Eight days before the first performance 
the publisher Giovanni Ricordi wrote to Giovanni Morandi: 'There 
is to be heard shortly another opera which a certain Maestro Verdi is 
writing.' 3 That must be the first reference to the composer in the annals 
of the house of Ricordi. Shortly afterwards the firm purchased the 
rights in Oberto for 2,000 Austrian lire and so established a connec- 
tion which must have brought them the equivalent of several kings' 

1 Carteggi verdiani, IV, p. 77. 

2 Luzio identifies him as Giovanni Antonio Speranza, but this composer was born at 
Mantua, not at Parma, and had already produced two operas. His best work, / due 
Figaro, was heard in the autumn of this year at Turin. 

3 Giuseppe Radiciotti, Lettere inedite di celebri musicisti (Milan, n.d.). 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 33 

ransoms. Merelli offered Verdi a contract for three more operas at 
eight months' intervals, the first of which was to have been // Pros- 
critto, on a libretto commissioned from Gaetano Rossi; but then, 
plans being changed, Verdi produced to order the opera buffa, Un 
giorno di regno, which had one performance on 5th September 1840 
and was a complete failure. 

There is not much that is new to be said about the extraordinary 
fact that Verdi, at the time he told Ricordi the story of his early life, 
had come to believe that both of his children and his wife had died 
within a period of about two months while he was composing Un 
giorno di regno. Gatti first established the facts : the girl Virginia was 
born at Busseto on 26th March 1837, and died there in August 1838; 
the boy Icilio was born at Busseto on 11th July 1838, and died at 
Milan on 22nd October 1839; both the children were thus already 
dead before Oberto was produced. Poor Margherita followed them 
into the grave in June of the following year. In her father's Libro di 
Casa occurs the heartbroken entry: 

Through a terrible disease, perhaps unknown to the doctors, there died 
in my arms at Milan, at noon on the day of Corpus Domini, my beloved 
daughter Margherita in the flower of her years and at the culmination of 
her good fortune, because married to the excellent youth Giuseppe Verdi, 
Maestro di Musica. I implore for her pure soul eternal peace, while weep- 
ing bitterly over this painful loss. 

It has been suggested that perhaps Ricordi was responsible for the 
errors in the Pougin-' Folchetto ' account; but the correspondence 
between composer and publisher shows that Verdi was sent a proof. 
Furthermore, although no one seems to have noticed it, the same 
confusion is shown in an earlier account which also has Verdi's 
authority behind it, that included in Michele Lessona's Volere e 
potere — the Italian equivalent of Samuel Smiles's Self-Help — pub- 
lished at Florence in 1869, twelve years before the Pougin-' Folchetto '. 
Here is the passage in question : 

There awaited him unutterable sorrows. He became ill, and while still 
convalescent while he was writing the promised opera, both his children, 
one three years old and the other two, fell ill and died. Shortly afterwards 
his wife, as a result of these afflictions, was attacked by inflammation of 
the brain and — the young mother following her children — she too died. 
All that happened between the beginning of April and 22nd June of that 
same year 1840, by the autumn of which he had to write an opera buffa. 

He seems to have envisaged this section of his own life, in recollection, 
as if it were a page from one of the violent romantic melodramas 
which occupied his imagination. But the facts were cruel enough. 

The story of Verdi's recovery from these disasters, and of the events 
leading up to the composition and performance of Nabucco, is best 
told in his own words : 



34 THE MAN VERDI 

Un giomo di regno failed to please: certainly the music was partly to 
blame, but partly, too, the performance. With mind tormented by my 
domestic misfortunes, embittered by the failure of my work, I was con- 
vinced that I could find no consolation in my art and decided never to 
compose again. I even wrote to the engineer Pasetti, asking him to obtain 
from Merelli my release from the contract. 

Merelli sent for me and treated me like a capricious schoolboy — he 
would not allow me to be discouraged by the unhappy failure of my opera, 
etc., etc. But I stood my ground, so that handing me back the contract 
Merelli said : ' Listen, Verdi ! I can't force you to write. My faith in you is 
undiminished : who knows whether, one of these days, you won't decide 
to take up your pen again? In that case, as long as you give me two 
months' notice before the beginning of the season, I promise that your 
opera shall be performed.' I thanked him, but these words did not suffice 
to alter my decision and I went away. 

I took rooms at Milan in the Corsia de' Servi. I had lost heart and 
given up thinking about music, when one winter evening on leaving the 
Galleria De Cristoforis I encountered Merelli, who was on his way to the 
theatre. It was snowing heavily and, taking me by the arm, he invited me 
to accompany him to his office at La Scala. On the way we talked and he 
told me he was in difficulties over the new opera he had to present : he had 
entrusted it to Nicolai but the latter was not satisfied with the libretto. 

'Imagine!' said Merelli. 'A libretto by Solera! Stupendous! Magnifi- 
cent! Extraordinary! Effective, grandiose dramatic situations and beautiful 
verses! But that pig-headed composer won't hear of it and says it's a 
hopeless libretto. I'm at my wits' end to know where to find another one 
quickly.' 

'I'll help you out myself,' I replied. 'Didn't you have prepared for me 
II proscrittol I haven't written a note of the music : I put it at your disposal.' 

'Oh! that's fine — a real stroke of luck!' 

Talking like this, we had reached the theatre. Merelli called Bassi, the 
poet, stage-manager, call-boy, librarian, etc., etc., and told him to look at 
once in the archives for a copy of II proscritto. The copy was there. At the 
same time Merelli picked up another manuscript and, showing it to me, 
exclaimed : 

'Look! Here is Solera's libretto. Such a beautiful subject — and he turned 
it down! Take it — read it through!' 

'What the deuce should I do with it? No, no, I have no wish to read 
librettos.' 

'Go on with you! It won't do you any harm. Read it and then bring it 
back to me again.' And he gave me the manuscript. It was on large sheets 
in big letters, as was then customary. I rolled it up, said goodbye to 
Merelli and went home. 

On the way I felt a kind of indefinable malaise, a very deep sadness, a 
distress that filled my heart. I got home and with an almost violent gesture 
threw the manuscript on the table, standing upright in front of it. The 
book had opened in falling on the table ; without knowing how, I gazed 
at the page that lay before me, and read this line : 
Va, pensiero, sulV all dorate. 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 35 

I ran through the verses that followed and was much moved, all the 
more because they were almost a paraphrase from the Bible, the reading 
of which had always delighted me. 

I read one passage, then another. Then, resolute in my determination 
to write no more, I forced myself to close the booklet and went to bed. 
But it was no use — I couldn't get Nabucco out of my head. Unable to sleep, 
I got up and read the libretto, not once, but two or three times, so that by 
the morning I knew Solera's libretto almost by heart. 

Still I was not prepared to relax my determination and that day I 
returned to the theatre and handed the manuscript back to Merelli. 

'Isn't it beautiful?' he said to me. 

'Very beautiful!' 

'Well then — set it to music!' 

'I wouldn't dream of it. I won't hear of it.' 

'Set it to music! Set it to music!' 

And so saying he took the libretto, thrust it into my overcoat pocket, 
took me by the shoulders and not only pushed me out of the room but 
locked the door in my face. 

What was I to do? 

I returned home with Nabucco in my pocket. One day one verse, another 
day another, here a note and there a phrase, little by little the opera was 
composed. 

It was the autumn of 1841, and recalling Merelli's promise, I went to 
see him and announced that Nabucco was written and could therefore be 
performed in the next Carnival season. 

Merelli declared himself ready to keep his word, but at the same time 
pointed out that it would be impossible to give the opera in the coming 
season, because the repertory was already settled and because three new 
operas by renowned composers were due for performance. To give a fourth 
opera by a composer who was almost a beginner was dangerous for every- 
body concerned, and above all dangerous for me. It would thus be better 
to wait for the spring season, for which he had no prior engagements. He 
assured me that good artists would be engaged. But I refused: either in the 
Carnival season or not at all. And I had good reasons for that, knowing it 
would be impossible to find two other artists so well suited to my opera as 
la Strepponi and Ronconi, whom I knew to be engaged and on whom I 
was much relying. 

Merelli, although disposed to give me my way, was, as impresario, not 
altogether in the wrong — to give four new operas in a single season was 
very risky! But I had good artistic grounds for opposing him. In short, 
after assertions and denials, obstacles and half-promises, the bills of La 
Scala were posted — but Nabucco was not announced ! 

I was young and hot-blooded. I wrote a rude letter to Merelli, giving 
vent to all my resentment. I confess that as soon as I had sent it I felt a 
kind of remorse, and I feared that as a result I had ruined everything. 

Merelli sent for me, and on seeing me angrily exclaimed : ' Is this the way 
to write to a friend? . . . But still, you're quite right. We'll give this 
Nabucco. You must remember, however, that I shall have heavy expenses 
on account of the other new operas. I shall not be able to have special 



36 THE MAN VERDI 

scenery and costumes made for Nabucco, but shall have to patch up as best 
I can whatever we find best adapted for the purpose in the storerooms.' 

I agreed to everything because I was anxious for the opera to be given. 
New bills were issued, on which I finally read : Nabucco ! . . . 

Towards the end of February the rehearsals began, and twelve days after 
the first rehearsal with pianoforte the first public performance took place, 
on 9th March, with Signore Strepponi and Bellinzaghi and Signori 
Ronconi, Miraglia and Derivis in the cast. 

With the successful production of Nabucco at La Scala on 9th 
March 1842, Verdi's glory begins and his youth comes to a close. 
Margherita Barezzi is scarcely heard of again. 

This chapter of reconsidered legends and documents of Verdi's 
youth may close with a passage from the Autobiografia dalle Lettere 
(Milan, 1941), compiled from the composer's letters by Aldo 
Oberdorfer ('Carlo Graziani'). This book, it has been said, 'broke 
through the crust of biographic conformity' and certainly Oberdorfer 
shows courage and insight in considering in his commentary all the 
dubious problems, historical and psychological, of Verdian bio- 
graphy. Here is what he has to say about Margherita Barezzi-Verdi: 

Accustomed to the comfortable way of life of the Barezzi family, whose 
easy circumstances, too, were reflected in her own married home at 
Busseto, she must have felt lost, poor, alone, in the great city. The little 
girl in the cemetery, out there; the little boy dead in her arms in this 
squalid Milanese house; Verdi, in the fever of preparing for the per- 
formance of Oberto, already caught up a little in the wheels of the theatre. 
And money was lacking for everything except essentials, and sometimes 
perhaps for those too — as on the day when she had to pawn her jewels to 
help Verdi pay the rent; at Busseto they had asked enough already of her 
father and mother; perhaps she did not dare to ask any more, or he wish 
to risk a rebuke, however affectionate, from his father-in-law. It is the only 
'heroic' action that we know of in her life, poor Ghita; a good and kind 
gesture. We know that in the interval between the two acts of Oberto, on 
the great night of the first performance, Verdi ran home to tell her that 
everything was going, or seemed to be going, as they had hoped — the 
companion, then, of his anxieties, lovingly attentive. And we know that 
when she died the young man seemed shattered, let himself be led back to 
Busseto by his father-in-law Barezzi like a boy, with no will-power left 
for anything but weeping — incapable of living, incapable of working. 
When he tried, under compulsion, there was the fiasco of Un giorno di 
regno, when the crisis was most acute, his desperation most profound. But 
less than two years afterwards came Nabucco, glory, new life. Formally and 
sentimentally it was a clean break with the past. That great sorrow was not 
forgotten, but buried. The ladies of the beau monde and the divas of the 
footlights staked their claims on the heart of the fashionable Maestro. 
There was no more room, in that bright light, for the pallid figure that, 
even when she was alive, seemed born for the shadows. She disappeared — 
completely. And it was a kind thought to wish her remembered in the 



EARLY LIFE AT BUSSETO AND MILAN 37 

crypt of the Casa di Reposo beside the Maestro and Giuseppina Strepponi, 
but historically it was a mistake. 

That is very moving — a remarkable evocation, out of almost nothing, 
of that pathetic wraith, Verdi's first wife. And yet, is it not only the 
deplorable lack of documents concerning her that allows it to be 
made? If we had some of the many letters that must have passed 
between Verdi and his 'Ghita' during the years of separation before 
their marriage, we should perhaps come to a different conclusion. 
Those few sentences preserved in the letter quoted earlier, from 
Galluzzi to Barezzi, though they are little enough to build on, do not 
suggest a shrinking, retiring nature. But Galluzzi's letter was unknown 
to the compiler of the Autobiografia. And it should be noted that 
Oberdorfer, with all his fine writing, his psychological acumen, has 
failed to read aright another of the few documents we do possess. 
Verdi explains in the account given to Ricordi that, after being con- 
fined to bed with an attack of quinsy, he suddenly remembered that 
the rent was almost due; there was no time, he says, to write to 
Busseto, to his father-in-law, for the money, as the post went only 
twice a week. Oberdorfer's suppositions, that Margherita did not 
dare to ask for more money, that Verdi did not wish to risk a rebuke 
from Barezzi, are entirely gratuitous. 

Enough has been said to show that there is an element of fiction in 
Oberdorfer's commentaries on Verdi's life and letters. In another 
book, the posthumously published Giuseppe Verdi (Milan, 1949), 
this tendency to confuse fact and fiction was to reach alarming 
proportions. 

Verdi may have been dazzled for a while by his lionization after the 
success of Nabucco, but not for long, and if Margherita had been still 
alive perhaps he would not have been dazzled at all. Hard as it is to 
imagine Verdi apart from Giuseppina Strepponi, is it so certain that 
Antonio Barezzi's daughter would not have proved equally worthy 
to share his throne? 



CHAPTER 



Bartolomeo Merelli, Giuseppina 
Strepponi and Napoleone Moriani 



w, 



hat has hitherto been known, or conjectured, about the 
relationship between the impresario who put on Verdi's first operas 
and the singer who subsequently became the composer's second wife, 
is conveniently summarized in the following short extract from Carlo 
Gatti's biography: 

Merelli persuades Lanari to cede her to him for a short sequence of 
performances; he takes her to Vienna and protects her; Giuseppina 
Strepponi's fortune is thus assured. 

There is no better support for a singer than the protection of a powerful 
impresario, who dispenses fame and money, and creates the glory and 
wealth of his dependents. 

Merelli's friendship, however, costs Giuseppina anguished and unreliev- 
able suffering in her life as a woman, of which a few people become 
aware. 

Here and there it is whispered that she is Merelli's mistress; Verdi 
himself, pointing her out one evening in the theatre to his sister-in-law 
Marianna, Margherita's younger sister, speaks about it, mentioning the 
son she is said to have. 1 

F. T. Garibaldi, in Giuseppe Verdi nella vita e nelVarte (Florence, 
1904), had first disclosed in print that Giuseppina Strepponi had an 
illegitimate son. Garibaldi's source of information, a letter from 
Giuseppina to Giovannina Lucca, was published by Alessandro 
Luzio in his famous article 'La Traviata e il dramma intimo personale 

1 First edition, I, pp. 158-9. In the second edition, p. 134, the passage ends: 'mention- 
ing the son she is said to have had by him. ' 

38 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 39 

di Verdi' in Nuova Antologia for 1st April 1937 (reprinted in Carteggi 
verdiani, vol. iv, Rome, 1947). Luzio cautiously, but certainly 
correctly, identified this son as the ' Camillino ' mentioned by Giusep- 
pina in a letter to Verdi of 3rd September 1849. 

A few short passages, some of them expressive of profound dis- 
couragement, from Giuseppina Strepponi's correspondence with the 
Florentine impresario Alessandro Lanari, were published in her 
lifetime by ' Jarro ' in his Memorie d'un impresario fiorentino (Florence, 
1892). After her death one of her letters to Lanari, dated 23rd June 
1839, was sent to Verdi by the antiquarian bookseller Giuseppe 
Coen, of Milan. This letter was also published by Luzio in his article 
in Nuova Antologia. 

The 'Anno Verdiano' of 1951 was not remarkable for the literature 
it produced. Quite the most exciting and original contribution was 
made by Eugenio Gara, who in an article ' La misteriosa giovinezza 
di Giuseppina Strepponi', in the Corriere della Sera of 27th January, 
revealed, or recalled, the existence of other letters from the singer to 
the Florentine impresario. These letters — twenty-two from 1828 to 
1842 and one from 1849 — had been for more than sixty years among 
Lanari's papers in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Florence, but had not 
been utilized by any of Verdi's biographers. The additional fragments 
quoted by Gara were most welcome, but the study of the whole 
collection is necessary, together with much hard work on the operatic 
background, if we are to understand and interpret aright these 
fascinating documents. All the letters quoted by 'Jarro' are here, 
together with others even more revealing. This correspondence 
permits more than a glimpse behind the scenes where Giuseppina 
Strepponi, the prima donna, won fame and applause; here we see her 
in her private life, gay sometimes, courageous always, but for long 
periods in the toils, overburdened with cares and responsibilities — a 
suffering, almost desperate, human being. 

Bartolomeo Merelli, impresario at Milan and Vienna, is an interest- 
ing figure who deserves more attention than he has yet received. Long 
before he brought out Verdi's earliest operas at Milan he had been 
Donizetti's close friend and first librettist. 

Donizetti was the pupil of Simone Mayr at the Charity School of 
Music at Bergamo from the autumn of 1806, when he was nearly nine, 
until the autumn of 1815, when he was nearly eighteen. Among 
Mayr's private pupils was Bartolomeo Merelli, the son of Count 
Moroni's man of affairs. Merelli was born at Bergamo on 19th May 
1794, 1 and was thus three and a half years older than the future 
composer of Lucia di Lammermoor and Don Pasquale. He was 
intended for the law, but showed more interest in music and literature. 

1 Precise date of birth first given by Ciro Caversazzi in Bergomum, April 1928. 



40 THE MAN VERDI 

Mayr called upon him to supervise the literary education of his 
brilliant pupil, the young Donizetti, and to provide verses for him 
to set to music. A few years later Merelli seemed to have embarked 
on a career as professional librettist. Four new operas with librettos 
by him were produced in 1818, Alfredo ilgrande by Mayr in Rome in 
February, // lupo di Ostenda by Vaccai at Venice in the spring, and 
then, towards the end of the year, also at Venice, the earliest works 
by Donizetti to be performed in a public theatre. The impresario 
Zancla of the Teatro San Luca (the former Teatro Vendramin) 
commissioned the opera semi-seria, Enrico di Borgogna, from Merelli 
and Donizetti. The librettist, as was customary, went with the 
composer to Venice to produce the opera. Enrico di Borgogna, first 
performed on 14th November, was not strikingly successful. The 
Gazzetta Privilegiata di Venezia on 19th November had a few words 
about the authors: 'Newish, if not quite new, the so-called poet; 
altogether new the talented composer, who now for the first time 
ventures upon these arduous tasks.' The anonymous Cenni biografici 
di Donizetti e Mayr (Bergamo, 1875), based on Merelli's reminiscences, 
refer to an opera buffa, II ritratto parlante, which he and Donizetti 
produced in less than a month for Zancla' s second company; this 
seems to be identical with Una follia, a one-act farce recorded as 
having been performed at the Teatro San Luca on 15th December, 
although the libretto of this is sometimes attributed to A. L. 
Tottola. There is no comment at all on this work in contemporary 
newspapers. 

In 1819 Merelli and Donizetti collaborated in two further one-act 
opere buffe: Piccioli virtuosi ambulanti, performed by Mayr's pupils 
at Bergamo in September, and Le nozze in villa, which was a bad 
failure when produced later at Mantua. In 1821 Merelli provided 
librettos for an oratorio, Samuele, by Mayr, and an opera seria, 
Zoraide di Granata, by Donizetti, which brought the composer his 
first considerable success when it was produced at the Teatro Argen- 
tina, Rome, on 28th January 1822. After that Donizetti's career led 
him for long periods away from Bergamo and the partnership broke 
up. Merelli subsequently wrote three more librettos for Vaccai— 
Pietro il grande (Parma, Carnival 1824), La pastor ella feudataria 
(Turin, 18th September 1824) and II precipizio (Milan, 16th August 
1826). 

For details of the next stages of Merelli's career we are dependent 
on the gossipy and generally unreliable Gino Monaldi, who devotes 
a chapter to him in his Impresari celebri del secolo XIX (Rocca S. 
Casciano, 1918). According, then, to Monaldi, after accompanying 
Donizetti to Rome for the production of Zoraide di Granata in 1822, 
Merelli returned to Bergamo, where he stayed for a short time, until 
a misadventure changed the whole course of his life. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 41 

The father of our Bartolomeo was the agent of the noble family of the 
Counts Moroni, and that allowed the younger Merelli to frequent their 
palazzo. Now it came about that the youth, who was of vivacious and 
thoughtless disposition, impelled perhaps by some considerable loss at 
play, or by some other motive, pocketed in a moment of mental aberration 
some silver cutlery, part of a splendid table service belonging to the Counts 
Moroni. The crime was very soon found out, to the great sorrow of 
Merelli's father, who, thanks to his long and honourable service with the 
Moroni family, was able to arrange that his son should not be punished — 
on the understanding, however, that he should leave Bergamo at once and 
never again set foot within the palazzo. The father then sent him to Milan. 
Arrived there, poor Bartolomeo, short of money, had to accept a job in 
one of the so numerous theatrical agencies of that time, resigning himself 
to the vulgar occupation of sweeping and dusting the office. 

If we are to believe Monaldi, Merelli's rise from this point was 
meteoric indeed : 

In little more than a year he had become the favourite of the house and 
in particular of its proprietor, who said to him one day : ' Listen, my dear 
Merelli, I'm not going to give you money, but I'll leave to you whatever 
the engagement of the theatrical company — the chorus singers, orchestral 
players, dancers, etc. — may bring in.' Merelli, however, was not the sort 
of man to be content with so little; he had quite different ideas. And one 
fine autumn morning our Bartolomeo suddenly leaves Milan, accompanied 
by a numerous company of virtuosi singers and dancers, and betakes 
himself to Vienna. 

A love affair with a famous ballerina was next turned to profit. She 
and Merelli between them fleeced the old minister Montecucoli, who 
gave many presents to the ballerina before he attained his desires : 

Finally the virtuosa capitulated, but that did not happen before Merelli 
had in his pocket a decree which nominated him Inspector General of the 
Imperial and Royal Theatres, with a salary of 12,000 florins. That office 
represented a real sinecure, leaving Merelli full freedom of movement. And 
in fact he profited by it to spread his wings and fly to other foreign shores 
and continue his brilliant and adventurous career. Very soon he had charge 
of the principal theatres of Europe — Paris, St Petersburg, Berlin, London 
and Vienna all had him in turn as their ambitious and fortunate impresario. 
In the autumn of 1836 he assumed the direction of La Scala which, with 
short interruptions, he retained until November 1864. 

Several things call for comment here. Even Gatti, the soberest of 
Verdi's biographers, although he omits the picturesque details, still 
relies on Monaldi for the 'facts' of Merelli's life. He refers to 'a 
youthful error', in consequence of which legal studies were abandoned 
for theatrical affairs, although Merelli must have been at least twenty- 
eight when he stole the cutlery — if he did steal it. Gatti accepts also 



42 THE MAN VERDI 

without question Monaldi's statement that Merelli became Inspector 
General of the Austrian Imperial and Royal Theatres. But of this 
appointment there is no trace in the Austrian State Archives. Nor is 
'the minister Montecucoli' easily identified. Further, Gatti repeats 
uncritically what Monaldi writes about Merelli having charge of the 
principal theatres in Paris, St Petersburg, Berlin and London. Not a 
scrap of evidence for this has ever been produced. Merelli was 
certainly, after his establishment at Milan, the agent through whom 
singers were engaged for Italian opera seasons in other countries; 
the theatrical papers of the period include announcements of the 
engagement of singers for Mexico City, Lisbon, St Petersburg, etc., 
through his agency; but that is not to say he was impresario of the 
theatres concerned. The date given by Monaldi for the beginning of 
Merelli's reign at La Scala is correct; that given for its end is wrong. 

More reliable information about Merelli's career is to be found in 
the letters of the composers for whom he worked and who worked 
for him, and in his own letters to Lanari, which are preserved among 
the latter's papers at Florence. The years following the production of 
Donizetti's Zoraide di Granata are obscure, apart from the three 
librettos for Vaccai. The earliest letter to Lanari is dated from Milan, 
9th October 1826, and shows that Merelli was then running a theat- 
rical agency under his own name ; as the reference number of this letter 
is 2,095 the agency had clearly been in existence for some time. The 
second letter to Lanari, of March 1827, gives the address: Piazza dei 
Filodrammatici, Milan. In 1828 we find references to Merelli in 
Bellini's letters. He was not yet well known — Bellini refers to 'a 
certain theatrical correspondent named Merelli' — and he was not 
much trusted: 'between ourselves, he passes for a swindler'. He 
was acting as operatic middleman between the impresarios of Genoa 
and Parma and the composers. He had brought the composer Pacini, 
without having proper authority to do so, an offer from Genoa; 
Bellini, however, although suspicious of Merelli's credentials, did 
secure through him the agreement to write Zaira for Parma. 

On 24th June 1830 Donizetti wrote to Mayr at the request of the 
tenor Alessandro Busti, who wished for a recommendation to Merelli. 
Relations between the former friends had deteriorated and Donizetti 
believed that a recommendation on his own part would be useless. 
Nevertheless, in the years that followed, the two were thrown together 
again fairly often by theatrical affairs. According to Alberto Cametti, 1 
Merelli in 1834 was the agent of Duke Carlo Visconti di Modrone, 
impresario of La Scala from the autumn of 1832 until the autumn of 
1836. 

In June 1834 Bellini blamed Merelli for the preparation and 
distribution of pirated scores of his operas by Milanese publishers. 

1 Jacopo Ferretti e i musicisti del suo tempo (Milan, n.d.), p. 206. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 43 

A modest beginning as impresario was made at Varese, where 
Merelli was in charge of the short autumn season of opera from 1830 
onwards. 1 He was impresario at Cremona for the Carnival season of 
1835, 2 and at Como in the following August. 3 His great period began 
in 1836. From 1st April of that year he became joint lessee with a 
much older man, Carlo Balochino (1770-1851), of the Karntnertor 
theatre in Vienna, and in the autumn of the same year he succeeded 
Visconti as impresario of La Scala, Milan. Merelli and Balochino 
retained their Viennese appointment uninterruptedly until the 
revolution of 1848; La Scala remained in Merelli's hands until 30th 
November 1850. 

According to Raffaello Barbiera 4 the death of Malibran on 23rd 
September 1836 relieved Merelli of the necessity of paying 100,000 
lire which he owed her under the terms of their contract. 

The comments made by composers in private about the new 
impresario continued to be unflattering. Donizetti wrote to Count 
Gaetano Melzi on 26th June 1838: 'As for Milan, in the matter of 
Art, I sing the Requiem, for Merelli will not and (very nearly) cannot 
pay.' Nicolai on 20th September of the same year described the 
impresario in his diary as ' a scoundrel, and already known as such in 
the whole of Italy'. 

The years during which Merelli put on the early operas of Verdi, 
from Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio (17th November 1839) to 
Nabucco (9th March 1842) and I Lombardi (1 1th February 1843) seem 
to have been prosperous ones. It must be said that he treated the 
young and unknown Verdi very well, showing generosity and for- 
bearance; he had his reward in the successes of Nabucco and / 
Lombardi, which certainly contributed largely to his prosperity. This 
must have been the period of Merelli's magnificent country villa at 
Lentate, with sixteen English horses in the stables, his luxurious 
apartments at Milan and his collections of pictures and objets d'art. 
The comments of the composers are now friendly in tone. 

On 31st October 1843, however, Donizetti complained to Melzi 
about Merelli's practice of making unauthorized alterations to his 
operas. Having announced that the composer had revised Faust a for 
performances at Bergamo, Merelli made it appear that the work had 
been revised by adding a finale from another opera and an aria by 
another composer. In June 1844 Roberto Devereux was a failure in 
Vienna. Donizetti made scathing comments on the singers in this 
Italian season, 'which could have been one of the most brilliant, but 
was the most disastrous'. He added: 'And Merelli, who calls himself 
director of the Italian season, stays at Milan — and does well to do so, 

1 P. Cambiasi, Teatro di Varese (Milan, 1891). 

2 VEco (Milan), 14th Jan. 1835. 

3 // Figaro (Milan), 5th Sept. 1835. 

4 Passioni del Risorgimento (Milan, 1903), p. 19. 



44 THE MAN VERDI 

for otherwise he would hear a thing or two.' The Italian season in 
Vienna in 1845 was even worse: 

Merelli led His Excellency the Minister of Home Security to believe that 
Mme Moltini was a Malibran ; he bet a thousand florins that Mme Tedesco 
and Calzolari were two divinities, and was ready to sign a note of hand for 
any sum of money, to wager on a colossal success. I read his letter myself. 
They had to take him at his word. 

The 'divinities' turned out to be two beginners, one only seventeen 
years old, who had never set foot on the stage before. 

It was a poor revenge for Sig. Merelli's mockery of the Viennese to see 
the theatre constantly empty. Only a few performances were moderately 
well attended. Who was responsible? Merelli. I was sent for. I read the 
letter in which the artists were listed. I couldn't say whether this was 
approved or not. But certainly one shouldn't write: 'I give you this singer 
who is a second Rubini' and 'I bet that this one will create a furore' and 
'A woman of whom Mme Fedor or Pasta herself would be afraid'. ... He 
made Laboccetta, a tenor of infinite grace (and therefore a weak one) make 
his debut in a part that did not suit him. He ends by making him play the 
violoncello. ... He has victimized all these good friends, who arrived here 
relying on the goodwill of the public. And why? He has three orchestral 
conductors capable of turning out fine operas: Nicolai, Proch and Reuling. 
And yet he decides on the opera and distributes the parts, and gives the 
bass the baritone part, and the contralto the soprano part. And if the 
artists protest he says: 'Have it altered.' He ruins operas; he ruins voices; 
the public hears mutilated versions of every part. He should give the scores 
to the conductors, who would choose the casts so as to bring honour to 
themselves and attract the public. Instead of which these conductors accept 
the scores when the management, as ignorant of music as I am of Greek, 
tells them: 'I have given out the parts myself.' ... If I requested of His 
Majesty the complete fulfilment of my Imperial and Royal Decree [as 
Court Composer to the Emperor] / should be obliged to superintend, 
during my stay here, the better working of the theatre. Instead, I try to put 
things right without ceremony. In recompense for that he writes: 'There is 
in Vienna an Italian musical celebrity who wages war on me.' War? When 
I ought to wage it and don't! 

The Italian season here was Hell let loose. There were four singers who 
had never been on the stage before. What howls ! What cat-calls ! What a 
lesson for the good Merelli! 

Things were no better at Milan. In this same year Verdi rejected a 
proposal that he should engage himself five years ahead to write for 
La Scala — for the last year of Merelli's contract as impresario. 
Verdi's pupil Emanuele Muzio told Antonio Barezzi: 'He doesn't 
want to write any more for La Scala, nor produce nor conduct any 
of his operas, and he says he doesn't want to set foot on that stage 
again.' It was hoped that the Milanese production of / due Foscari, 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 45 

with which Verdi himself would have nothing to do, would neverthe- 
less make up for the failure of other operas : 

Let's hope that / due Foscari will not be so maltreated as was William 
Tell ! . . . Singers, chorus and orchestra vied with one another in doing 
their worst. The opera was only allowed to finish out of respect for Rossini. 
Signora Sonta (who paid Merelli 3,500 Austrian lire to be allowed to sing) 
got horribly hissed and will not appear again — at least it is hoped not. 
Everything as bad as possible! What scoundrels! 

Muzio reported fiasco after fiasco. He was perhaps a little biased. 

Already in April 1845 Donizetti had heard that Merelli was in 
financial difficulties. In October 1846 Muzio declared that it was 
feared at Milan that he might go bankrupt. ' He has sold his house 
and still has large debts. He told one of his friends that the Carnival 
season will be for him a matter of life and death.' The situation was 
apparently temporarily saved by the successes of Fanny Elssler, a 
troupe of American acrobatic dancers and Verdi's Attila. But Verdi 
himself was so disgusted with the way Attila was produced that he 
wrote to Ricordi, refusing to allow any of his future operas to be 
performed at La Scala. 

The revolution of 1848 caused the cancellation of the projected 
Italian season in Vienna. Richard Wallaschek, in Das k. k. Hofopern- 
theater (Vienna, 1909), provides some interesting information, not 
available elsewhere, on Merelli's activities at this period. Wallaschek 
contrasts the characters of the Italian co-lessees of the Karntnertor 
theatre. He says that the elderly Balochino, after paying off the artists, 
ran away at the first sign of trouble, but that Merelli 'allowed himself 
to be employed as a spy of Radetzky's at the beginning of the Italian 
unrest, which brought him in such bad odour among his fellow 
countrymen that for a long time after 1849 he did not dare leave the 
confines of Austrian Italy'. Unfortunately, Wallaschek does not give 
us his sources for this information. It is worth noting, however, that 
the vice-president of the Austrian Government in Lombardy from 
1844 to 1847 was Count Albert Montecucoli and that after the sup- 
pression of the Milanese rising this man became in 1849 head of 
civilian affairs under Field Marshal Radetzky. Montecucoli was born 
on 1st July 1802, so he was eight years younger than Merelli; he was 
in Salzburg when Merelli first took over the Italian opera in Vienna; 
and it was only during his last few years, before his death on 19th 
August 1852, that, as first Sektionschef in the Ministry for Internal 
Affairs, he could have called himself a minister of state. So it is 
difficult to identify him as 'the old minister Montecucoli' of Monaldi's 
anecdote. Nevertheless, the connection of the names of Montecucoli 
and Merelli may have some significance. It is possible that the 
impresario, maintaining his position with difficulty in Vienna and at 



46 THE MAN VERDI 

Milan, may have been driven into spying for the Austrians. Such a 
move would have been, from all accounts, entirely in character. 
Letters from the bass singer Carlo Cambiaggio to Lanari, published 
by ' Jarro', give a picture of Milan after the return of the Austrians 
and mention Merelli: 

The end of August 1848: 

Milan has become a monastery, or rather, I seem to be in the country, 
for one sees no one except the soldiers, who make a devilish noise, dragging 
their sabres along the ground. The day before yesterday they shot a 
young man of twenty-five because they found he was wearing a dagger ; 
today, it is said, they are going to shoot another. In order to avoid being 
shot, I don't even carry a cane, and I go home at eight o'clock. 

16th September 1848: 

Milan is crowded only with soldiery. All the houses and palazzi are full 
of them. Soldiers cook their rations in magnificent apartments and gilded 
salons. The famous Casino de' Nobili, all the Archbishop's Palace and 
many churches are full of Croats and other insects. ... At Monza they 
shot a man and his son because they found buried in his garden a wretched, 
useless fowling-piece that didn't even belong to him. New taxes are 
announced every day. ... If you were here in the evening you wouldn't 
believe you were at Milan; in less than a quarter of an hour you would 
encounter twenty patrols, in war-formation, with their sentries, vanguards 
and rearguards. There is much talk; what is certain is that the mayor has 
protested that he hasn't the means to go on. Meanwhile the theatre does 
well, Merelli laughs and the military carouse. 

Decidedly, the impresario was not a good Italian patriot. 

Merelli's reign at La Scala ended on 30th November 1850. From 
1853 to 1855, and probably also before that, he was again in charge 
of the Italian seasons in Vienna. Little is known of his later life 
except that he reappeared as impresario of La Scala from the autumn 
of 1861 until Lent 1863. When Giovannina Lucca, in 1861, proposed 
to Nicola De Giosa that he should write a new opera for Merelli, the 
composer replied: 'I hope never to have anything to do with that 
impresario. I know what a fine baby he is, and prefer to rot in misery 
rather than fall into his clutches.' x Someone named Merelli took an 
Italian operatic company, including Desiree Artot, to St Petersburg 
in 1868; this may have been Bartolomeo, then aged seventy-four, but 
is more likely to have been his son Eugenio, who was in charge of the 
Italian season at the Karntnertor theatre, Vienna, in 1864, and who 
is mentioned sometimes in the theatrical papers of this period. 2 The 
old age of the 'Napoleon of the Impresarios' was spent in retirement 

1 Franco Schlitzer, Mondo teatrale delVottocento (Naples, 1954), p. 187. 

2 The Gazzetta Musicale di Milano of 31st March 1867 reported that the younger 
Merelli had engaged Desiree Artot, among other singers, for Warsaw. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 47 

at Bergamo, where in 1871 he was a member of the Consultative 
Commission of the School of Music. 1 In writing or dictating his 
reminiscences for the anonymous Cenni biografici di Donizetti e Mayr, 
'raccolti dalle memorie di un vecchio ottuagenario dilettante di 
musica', he drew attention to Charles de Boigne's Petits Memoir es de 
V Opera (Paris, 1857) and Michele Lessona's Volere e potere (Florence, 
1869). The only references to Merelli in these books concern his early 
recognition of Verdi and his part in the creation ofNabucco, of which 
he would seem to have been legitimately proud. He returned later to 
Milan, where he died of apoplexy on 3rd or 4th April 1879. 2 

Monaldi ends his history of the Fall of the House of Merelli on a 
macabre note : 

His only son, the advocate Luigi Merelli, who also had his period as 
theatrical impresario, could not or perhaps did not wish to continue to 
bear his famous name on the stage of the world. A few days after his 
father's death Luigi Merelli, at the age of fifty-four, committed suicide, 
together with his daughter Cristina, aged thirty-one, asphyxiating himself 
by means of charcoal fumes. The bodies were found in a closet, in the 
house they rented on the Corso di Porta Genova, clasped in each other's 
arms, and in a state of advanced putrefaction. 

A detailed account of this 'Dramma orrendo' is to be found in the 
newspaper La Per sever anza for 11th April 1879, with additional 
'tristi particolari' on 13th, 14th and 15th April. Various letters and 
notes were found near the corpses. On the wash-basin was a board 
and on this a piece of paper with an inscription in enormous letters : 
'We are killing ourselves because we are tired of life. Let no one be 
blamed for our deaths.' Then a note in Cristina's hand: 'Please leave 
me dressed as I am and bury me like this, because my underclothes 
are clean; I changed them last Saturday.' Again: 

I ask to be buried in the clothes I am wearing, without even my under- 
clothes being changed. I wish to be buried beside my father. Both he and 
I would like the expenses of our funerals to be paid out of the enclosed 
250 lire. 

Cristina Merelli. 

La Per sever anza of 13th April states that the news had been too much 
for Luigi Merelli's sister, who had collapsed and was then in grave 
danger. The issue of 14th-15th April refers to another brother, 
Eugenio, who had a few days earlier supplied the 250 lire. So Monaldi 
was not right in calling Luigi the 'only son' of Bartolomeo Merelli. 
Monaldi gets everything wrong. It was Eugenio, and not Luigi, who 

1 G. Donati-Petteni, L 'Arte delta musica in Bergamo (Bergamo, 1930), p. 69. 

2 In La Perseveranza for 5th April he is listed among those who died at Milan on 4th 
April; but the obituary notice in the same number (5th April) says he died 'the day 
before yesterday'. 



48 THE MAN VERDI 

was for a time an impresario. And Luigi was fifty-one, and not fifty- 
four, at the time of his suicide. 1 Eugenio died on 2nd November 
1882, aged fifty-seven; 2 he was therefore born in 1825. Bartolomeo 
Merelli must have married within a year or two of his arrival at 
Milan in 1822, or thereabouts. Barbiera 3 says he was twice married, 
the second time to a Signora Magni, his deceased wife's sister, and 
had seven children in all. 

We turn now to the subject of Giuseppina Strepponi's origins and 
early career. Until her history, as well as Merelli's, has been clarified, 
it is impossible to decide how much, or how little, truth there is in the 
account of their relationship presented by Gatti and generally 
accepted since. Giuseppina was the daughter of Feliciano Strepponi, 
a musician from Lodi, who began his career under a severe handicap. 
While still a student at the Milan Conservatorio he had married — 
presumably because he had to — Rosa Cornalba, also a native of Lodi, 
and he was no more than eighteen years of age when, on 8th Sep- 
tember 1815, his first child, Clelia Maria Josepha, afterwards known 
as Giuseppina, was born. A score of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, 
presented to Feliciano Strepponi after a concert by the Conservatorio 
pupils on 7th October 1819, is preserved at Sant' Agata. He completed 
his studies in 1820 and then secured a position as maestro di cappella 
of the cathedral at Monza, where he wrote much church music; but 
he soon sought fame in the theatres. His first opera, // marito nubile, 
produced at Turin in 1822, was followed in 1823 by two others, Chi fa 
cost fa bene and Francesca da Rimini, produced respectively at Milan 
and Vicenza. Preoccupation with the stage led to neglect of his duties 
as organist and choirmaster, and in 1828 he was dismissed from 
Monza. In that year he settled, with his family, at Trieste, where he 
was engaged as assistant to Giuseppe Farinelli, musical director of 
the Teatro Grande. Two new operas, UAllievo delVamore and Gli 
Illinesi, were heard there in the following year. Then Amore e mistero 
was produced at Turin in 1830 and Wild di Bassora, with consider- 
able success, at La Scala, Milan, in 1831. Strepponi, after an unfortu- 
nate venture into theatrical management, ending in disaster, died 
at Trieste on 13th January 1832, aged only thirty-four, leaving his 
widow in poor circumstances, with four children to support. The 
eldest child, Giuseppina, had entered the Milan Conservatorio as a 
paying pupil on 9th December 1830, exemption from the regulation 
concerning the age limit, refused to Verdi, having been granted in her 
case. She was a good pianist and showed exceptional promise as a 
singer. Her mother managed to pay the Conservatorio fees for 1832, 

1 La Perseveranza, 1 1th April 1879, where, however, he and Cristina are listed among 
' Morti a Milano il 10 Aprile' — the date, rather, of the discovery of their bodies. 

2 La Perseveranza, 6th Nov. 1882. 

3 Op. cit, p. 18. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 49 

out of the receipts of a concert given for her benefit at Trieste, but 
was too poor to continue. Giuseppina was then granted a free 
scholarship, which enabled her to complete her training, and in the 
autumn of 1834 she carried off the first prize for bel canto and left 
the Conservatorio. A memento of this survives at Sant' Agata, in the 
form of a volume of manuscript music, bound in leather, with the 
inscription in gilt letters: 'Premio ed incoraggiamento all' alunna 
Strepponi per raccademia 29 Settembre 1834.' The Gazzetta Privi- 
legiata di Milano next day gave what was probably Giuseppina's first 
mention in print. She was praised for her performances at the 
students' concert of the cavatina from Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda, 
and, with other pupils, of a duet from Donizetti's Anna Bolena and 
of a quintet by Basily: 'This young singer, all heart and tempera- 
ment, gifted particularly in the upper register with a neat and agile 
voice, will be a fine acquisition, when the time comes, for the Italian 
stage.' A month later she appeared in concerts at Lodi, her birthplace, 
where she had relatives, and towards the end of 1834 she made her 
debut on the stage at Adria. A success in Rossini's Matilde di Shabran 
at the Teatro Grande, Trieste, during the Carnival season of 1835 
established her as a rising star. From this time forward Giuseppina 
became the mainstay of the family. 

The nineteenth-century Italian operatic world was controlled by 
the all-powerful impresarios. These competed for the singers, who 
often placed themselves for long periods entirely in the hands of a 
single impresario. A singer was said to be 'in the possession' of 
Alessandro Lanari or Bartolomeo Merelli, and the possessor, after 
making the best use of an artist in the theatres under his direction, 
could hire him or her, without consultation, to a colleague or rival. 
The young Giuseppina Strepponi is generally stated to have been 
secured by Lanari, who had his headquarters at Florence, but also 
controlled a number of theatres in other parts of Italy. Giuseppina is 
said to have appeared in twenty-seven theatres in the first five years of 
her career. Not all of these can be easily traced. According to Fetis 
she sang at Venice, Brescia and Mantua in 1836, at Trieste and 
Bologna in 1837, and in Rome, Leghorn and Florence in 1838. The 
Italian writers who might have been expected to clarify this dark 
period of Giuseppina's life, between the commencement of her 
professional career and the advent in 1839 of Verdi, have been con- 
tent to copy from Fetis, or from each other, this string of dates and 
place names. 

In the archives at Sant' Agata nothing remains that could serve for 
the reconstruction of this theatrical career — no librettos, playbills or 
programmes. She seems herself to have destroyed almost everything 
that could remind her of her former triumphs : other memories, too 
painful to contemplate, were bound up with them. 



50 THE MAN VERDI 

Books exist on the operatic history of various towns or individual 
theatres, from which some details of Giuseppina's stage appearances 
can be recovered, but the information is scanty enough, and for many 
towns, and very many theatres, there are no such records. The con- 
temporary newspapers must be consulted. The Gazzetta Privilegiata 
di Milano for this period includes, not only reviews of performances 
in Milanese theatres, but a weekly column of operatic notes and news, 
with brief reports of successes and failures all over the peninsula. This 
is very helpful, although there are disconcerting gaps — there is almost 
nothing in the Gazzetta Privilegiata, for instance, about operatic 
events during the second half of 1836. The richest and most reliable 
sources of all are the specifically theatrical papers, of which the two 
most important were // Virata and // Figaro, published twice a week 
at Milan. The files of these papers provide all the materials needed for 
the reconstruction from beginning to end of Giuseppina's artistic 
career, and against this background one can begin to understand her 
correspondence with Lanari. In addition, the contemporary letters of 
other singers and impresarios to Lanari, preserved together with 
Giuseppina's in the Biblioteca Nazionale at Florence, can be drawn 
upon for further details. They include more than two hundred letters 
from Bartolomeo Merelli himself. 

As soon as one digs a little deeper into the records of Giuseppina's 
early life, one finds reason to doubt whether the accepted story is 
based on anything more than supposition. The Italian authorities 
never seem to bother to check anything. In the passage quoted at the 
beginning of this chapter, Gatti declares that she was taken to Vienna 
by Merelli, who had persuaded Lanari to cede her to him for a short 
sequence of performances. Now Giuseppina Strepponi's only appear- 
ances in Vienna took place in April, May and June 1835, the year 
before Merelli became impresario of the Karntnertor theatre. The 
actual lessee at this time was Louis Antoine Duport, who had been 
Barbaja's manager in Vienna from 1826 to 1828 and was himself 
lessee from 1st September 1830 until 31st March 1836. This in itself 
does not disprove the story, as a note in the Gazzetta Privilegiata of 
14th June 1835 shows that Merelli, although not impresario, was 
responsible, probably in his capacity as theatrical agent, for the 
success of the Italian season of this year. 1 So he may well have taken, 
or sent, Giuseppina to Vienna. But he did not obtain her from 
Lanari. She is not mentioned in Merelli's correspondence with 
Lanari of 1835. She was in fact not at this time bound to any one 
particular impresario, and from contemporary letters and newspapers 

1 A rival, Ercole Tinti, had announced at Bologna that he was taking over the Vienna 
theatre in 1836. This was denied in the Gazzetta Privilegiata, which stated that Merelli 
was then engaged, as a result of a commission received, in assuring for the Viennese 
public the continuation in the future of the pleasures he had secured for them in the 
present season. 




Margherita Barezzi, Verdi's first wife 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 51 

it appears that she first sang in a theatre under Lanari's management 
in 1837, and first signed a long-term contract with him in 1838. 

Mercede Mundula, in her delightfully written biography of 
Giuseppina, La Moglie di Verdi (Milan, 1938), follows Gatti in 
believing that Lanari ceded her to Merelli in 1835, 1 and adds: 

In the burning circle in which la Strepponi turns there unfolds, a little 
later, the almost habitual course of events of the theatrical milieu: the 
prima donna becomes the mistress of the conquering impresario. . . . The 
rash girl will never forgive herself for her lapse, which has, however, every 
extenuating circumstance. ... A child is born of that union, a child that 
the father, legally married, cannot legitimize : Giuseppina's existence will 

be bound to that child of sin, as to a cross, for many years A bewildered 

moth has miserably burned her wings, attracted by a light that seemed 
brilliant, but was in reality harsh and smoky. 

This is very fine, very moving — almost as good as Oberdorfer. But it 
is not true: it is fiction. Signora Mundula commits herself to saying 
that Giuseppina's illegitimate child 'saw the light in 1836 or 37 — 
certainly before 1838', but if she had undertaken, as she should have 
done, the task of reconstructing the singer's career in detail, she would 
have found that there is simply no room, amid the crowded pro- 
gramme of operatic engagements in 1836 and 1837, for the birth of a 
baby. And how was it that, after Vienna in 1835, Giuseppina never 
appeared at any theatre under Merelli's direction until 1839? If he 
wished to 'dispense fame and money, and create the glory and wealth 
of his dependents ' the obvious thing for Merelli to do for his supposed 
new mistress, a bright young star, would have been to engage her for 
La Scala at Milan and re-engage her for the Karntnertor theatre in 
Vienna. From 1836 onwards both these theatres were under his 
control. Yet Giuseppina never returned to Vienna and made her first 
appearance at La Scala only in 1839. As for the illegitimate child, it is 
possible to show fairly conclusively, from the gaps in stage appear- 
ances, that Camillino must have been born early in 1838. The newly 
rediscovered letters from Giuseppina to Lanari disclose that she had 
in actual fact, not one, but two illegitimate children, the second born 
quite certainly towards the end of 1841. And the letters show that 
someone else, and not Merelli, was the father of these children. 

Signora Mundula is concerned to present the young Giuseppina 
Strepponi as a dove-like creature, the innocent victim of circum- 
stances and the villainy of men. It is for this reason, presumably, that 
she places Camillino's birth very early in her heroine's career. The 
picture that emerges after study of the correspondence with Lanari 
is rather different. One illegitimate child may be explained away as a 

1 She is followed in her turn by Giuseppe Stefani, whose Verdi e Trieste (Trieste, 
1951) includes, however, some new information about the Strepponi family from the 
local archives. 



52 



THE MAN VERDI 



slip, the sort of thing that might happen to anyone entering, alone 
and unprotected, the dubious backstage world. But two children? 
When the second was born Giuseppina was twenty-six, no longer in 
her first youth, and, one would have thought, sufficiently experienced, 
after six years on the stage, to avoid the obvious pitfalls for a 
beginner. 

The following table, compiled from the contemporary theatrical 
papers and other sources, gives the dates of Giuseppina Strepponi's 
appearances at different towns and theatres, in concerts and opera 
performances, from the beginning of her career until the production 
of Verdi's Nabucco in 1842. It must be understood that in most cases 
a long series of repeat performances followed the first performance of 
operas here recorded, until the end of the season in question. Precise 
dates of the ends of the seasons are not easy to establish; where they 
are known they are here given. Composers' names follow the first 
appearance in any particular opera. In the course of this period of her 
life Giuseppina sang in twelve operas by Donizetti, seven by Bellini, 
five by Rossini, five by Mercadante, three or four by the Ricci 
brothers, two by F. Campana and one each by ten other composers, 
including Verdi. In the last few years of her career, which constitute 
a quite separate period, she was to add to her repertoire only two 
more operas by Donizetti, one by Verdi and one by Meyerbeer. 







1834 




29th Sept. 


Milan 


Conservatorio 


Concert 


31st Oct. 


Lodi 




Concert 


17th Nov. 


Lodi 




Concert 


26thDec.(?)Adria 


Teatro Orfeo 


Chiara di Rosemberg (L. 








Ricci) (?) 






1835 




19th Jan. 


Trieste 


Teatro Grande 


Matilde di Shabran (Rossini) 


7th Feb. 


Trieste 


Teatro Grande 


Anna Bolena (Donizetti) 


4th Apr. 


Vienna 


Karntnertor Theatre 


Anna Bolena 


29th Apr. 


Vienna 


Karntnertor Theatre 


Norma (as Adalgisa) (Bellini) 


15th May 


Vienna 


Karntnertor Theatre 


La Sonnambula (Bellini) 


9th June 


Vienna 


Karntnertor Theatre 


// Fwioso aW isola di S. 
Domingo (Donizetti) 






(Season ended 16th June) 


18th July 


Udine 


Teatro della Nobile 
Societa 


La Sonnambula 


Aug. 


Udine 


Teatro della Nobile 
Societa 


Anna Bolena 


Sept. 


Gorizia 


Teatro di Societa 


Anna Bolena 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 



53 



26th Sept. 


Verona 


Teatro Filarmonico 


LEsule di Roma (Donizetti) 


2nd Oct. 


Verona 


Teatro Filarmonico 


La Sonnambula 


7th Nov. 


Venice 


Teatro S. Benedetto 


Nina pazza per amore (P. A. 
Coppola) 


1st Dec. 


Venice 


Teatro S. Benedetto 


Elena e Mahina (E. Vignozzi) 


12th Dec. 


Venice 


Teatro S. Benedetto 


La Sonnambula 


26th Dec. 


Brescia 


Teatro Grande 
1836 


Nina pazza per amore 


Jan. 


Brescia 


Teatro Grande 


LOrfanella di Ginevra (L. 
Ricci) 


29th Jan. 


Brescia 


Teatro Grande 


La Sonnambula 






(Season ended 21st Feb.) 


9th Apr. 


Venice 


Teatro Fenice 


La Gazza ladra (Rossini) 


23rd Apr. 


Venice 


Teatro Fenice 


/ Puritani (Bellini) 


4th May 


Venice 


Teatro Fenice 


Cenerentola (Rossini) 


7th May 


Venice 


Teatro Fenice 


Nina pazza per amore 


8th May 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


I Puritani 


17th May 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


Nina pazza per amore 


22nd May 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


Concert 


29th May 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


II Pirata (Bellini) 


11th June 


Mantua 


Teatro Sociale 


/ Puritani 


June 


Mantua 


Teatro Sociale 


Nina pazza per amore 


20th July 


Piacenza 


Teatro Municipale 


Urfavventura di Scaramuccia 
(L. Ricci) 


Aug. 


Piacenza 


Teatro Municipale 


VElisir d'amore (Donizetti) 


30th Aug. 


Cremona Teatro della Con- 


Belisario (Donizetti) 






cordia 




17th Sept. 


Cremona Teatro della Con- 


/ Normanni a Parigi (Merca- 






cordia 


dante) 


22nd Oct. 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


Norma (as Norma) 


16th Nov. 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


La Sonnambula 


3rd Dec. 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


La Straniera (Bellini) 


26th Dec. 


Trieste 


Teatro Grande 
1837 


I Puritani 


Jan. 


Trieste 


Teatro Grande 


UElisir d' amore 


28th Jan. 


Trieste 


Teatro Grande 


Ferramondo (A. Buzzola) 


11th Feb. 


Trieste 


Teatro Grande 


La Sonnambula 


23rd Feb. 


Trieste 


Teatro Grande 


I Capuleti e i Montecchi 
(Bellini) 






(Season ended 29th Mar.) 


15th Apr. 


Bologna 


Teatro Comunale 


Marino Faliero (Donizetti) 


9th May 


Bologna 


Teatro Comunale 


Lucia di Lammermoor (Doni- 



zetti) 
May Bologna Teatro Comunale / Puritani 



54 




THE MAN VERDI 


10th June 


Faenza 


Teatro Comunale 


Marino Faliero 


23rd June 


Faenza 


Teatro Comunale 


I Puritani 


28th July 


Lodi 




Concert 


Aug. 


Turin 


Teatro Carignano 


La Muette de Portici (Auber) 


Sept. 


Turin 


Teatro Carignano 


77 Furioso alV isola di S. 
Domingo 


25th Sept. 


Turin 


Teatro Carignano 


La prova d^urt opera seria 
(F. Gnecco) 


14th Oct. 


Turin 


Teatro Carignano 


77 Pirata 






(Season ended 2nd Dec.) 


3rd Dec. 


Turin 


1838 


Concert 


1 1th Mar. 


Turin 




Concert 


25th Mar. 


Turin 




Concert 


21st Apr. 


Rome 


Teatro Argentina 


Lucia di Lammermoor 


3rd May 


Rome 


Teatro Argentina 


I Puritani 


12th May 


Rome 


Teatro Apollo 


Lucia di Lammermoor 


19th May 


Rome 


Teatro Argentina 


Pia de' Tolomei (Donizetti) 


13th June 


Rome 


Teatro Argentina 


Alisia di Rieux (G. Lillo) 






(Season ended 19th June) 


25th June 


Florence 




Concert 


1st July 


Florence 


Teatro Pergola 


Lucia di Lammermoor 


14th July 


Leghorn 




Maria di Rudenz (Donizetti) 


27th July 


Leghorn 




Concert 


28th July 


Leghorn 




Beatrice di Tenda (Bellini) 


14th Aug. 


Leghorn 




Caterina di Guisa (F. Cam- 
pana) 


Aug. 


Cremona Teatro della Con- 


Lucia di Lammermoor 






cordia 




Sept. 


Cremona Teatro della Con- 


Norma 






cordia 




14th Oct. 


Florence 


Teatro Alfieri 


Norma 


30th Oct. 


Florence 


Teatro Alfieri 


La Straniera 


2nd Dec. 


Florence 


Teatro Cocomero 


Lucia di Lammermoor 


8th Dec. 


Florence 




Concert 


10th Dec. 


Florence 


Teatro Cocomero 


Betly (Donizetti) 


11th Dec. 


Florence 




Concert 


16th Dec. 


Florence 




Concert 


26th Dec. 


Florence 


Teatro Alfieri 
1839 


La Sonnambula 


6th Jan. 


Florence 




Concert 


29th Jan. 


Florence 


Teatro Alfieri 


II Giuramento (Mercadante) 


12th Mar. 


Venice 


Teatro Fenice 


Le due illustri rivali (Merca- 
dante) 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 



55 



20th Aug. 


Milan 


Teatro Scala 


/ Puritani 


18th May 


Milan 


Teatro Scala 


VElisir d'amore 


11th June 


Milan 


Teatro Scala 


Pia de" Tolomei 


22nd June 


Milan 


Teatro Scala 


Lucia di Lammermoor 






(Season ended 30th 


June) 


17th July 


Sinigaglia Teatro Fenice 


Lucia di Lammermoor 


July 


Sinigaglia Teatro Fenice 


VElisir d'amore 


3rd Aug. 


Sinigaglia Teatro Fenice 


II Giuramento 


15th Aug. 


Lucca 


Teatro Giglio 


Lucia di Lammermoor 


10th Sept. 


Lucca 


Teatro Giglio 


II Giuramento 


25th Sept. 


Lucca 


Teatro Giglio 


Beatrice di Tenda 


11th Oct. 


Florence 


Teatro Pergola 


II Giuramento 


25th Oct. 


Florence 


Teatro Pergola 


Maria di Rudenz 


14th Nov. 


Florence 


Teatro Pergola 


Beatrice di Tenda 


26th Nov. 


Florence 


Teatro Pergola 


VElisir d'amore 


26th Dec. 


Verona 


Teatro Filarmonico 
1840 


Parisina (Donizetti) 


18th Jan. 


Verona 


Teatro Filarmonico 


/ Puritani 


10th Feb. 


Verona 


Teatro Filarmonico 


Maria di Rudenz 


22nd Feb. 


Verona 


Teatro Filarmonico 


VElisir d'amore 






(Season ended 1st Mar.) 


10th June 


Florence 


Teatro Pergola 


Rosmunda (G. Alary) 


July 


Sinigaglia 


l Teatro Fenice 


// Giuramento 


July 


Sinigaglia 


l Teatro Fenice 


Le due illustri rivali 


16th Aug. 


Lucca 


Teatro Giglio 


Le due illustri rivali 


8th Sept. 


Lucca 


Teatro Giglio 


Giovanni da Procida (J. 
Poniatowski) 


Sept. 


Lucca 


Teatro Giglio 


Belisario 


Oct. 


Florence 


Teatro Pergola 


Beatrice di Tenda 


1st Nov. 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


II Bravo (Mercadante) 


21st Nov. 


Venice 


Teatro Apollo 


Otello (Rossini) 



31st Dec. Rome 



(Season ended 3rd Dec.) 
Teatro Apollo Marino Faliero 



19th Jan. 
11th Feb. 

14th Mar. 
31st Mar. 

17th Apr. 
Apr. 



Rome 
Rome 

Florence 
Florence 

Ancona 
Ancona 



1841 

Teatro Apollo Mose (Rossini) 

Teatro Apollo Adelia (Donizetti) 

(Season ended 23rd Feb.) 



Teatro Pergola 
Teatro Pergola 

Teatro delle Muse 
Teatro delle Muse 



/ Puritani 
Michelangelo e 

Ricci) 
Maria di Rudenz 
Belisario 



Rolla (F. 



56 




THE MAN VERDI 


11th May 


Ancona 


Teatro delle Muse Elena da Feltre (Mercadante) 
(Season ended 26th May) 


1st June 


Faenza 


Teatro Comunale Maria di Rudenz 


13th June 


Faenza 


Teatro Comunale Elena da Feltre 


19th June 


Faenza 


Teatro Comunale Beatrice di Tenda 


14th Aug. 


Bergamo 


Teatro Riccardi / Puritani 


2nd Sept. 


Bergamo 


Teatro Riccardi Marino Faliero 
(Season ended 15th Sept.) 


6th Oct. 


Trieste 


Teatro Grande Giulio d 'Este (F. Campana) 
1842 


18th Jan. 


Genoa 


Teatro Carlo Felice Saffo (Pacini) 


2nd Feb. 


Genoa 


Teatro Carlo Felice // Giuramento 


13th Feb. 


Genoa 


Concert 
(Season ended 13th Feb.) 


22nd Feb. 


Milan 


Teatro Scala Belisario 


9th Mar. 


Milan 


Teatro Scala Nabucco (Verdi) 
(Season ended 19th Mar.) 



Bice Paoli Catelani, in // Teatro Comunale del 'Giglio* di Lucca 
(Pescia, 1941), p. 27, states that Giuseppina Strepponi sang in Lucia 
di Lammermoor at Lucca in 1836. This is a misprint for 1839. 

Mercede Mundula (op. cit. p. 37) says that Giuseppina sang during 
the Carnival season 1839-40 at Venice, Verona and Vicenza. In fact, 
she sang only at Verona during this season. No appearances at 
Vicenza are recorded in the theatrical papers, and her name does not 
appear among the lists of artists given in Francesco Formenton's 
Storia del Teatro Eretenio di Vicenza (Vicenza, 1868). 

Precise information about Giuseppina' s stage debut at Adria is 
lacking. It is mentioned by G. Oldrini in his Storia musicale di Lodi 
(Lodi, 1883) and by G. Baroni in La sagra del bel canto italiano, a 
numero unico published at Lodi in 1930, but there are no reports of 
operatic performances at Adria in the theatrical papers. However, 
single operas were often put on at small towns for a few performances 
during the Carnival season commencing 26th December, and as 
Giuseppina did not appear at Trieste until 19th January 1835 there is 
thus time for her to have sung first elsewhere, for a short season. A 
libretto of Luigi Ricci's Chiara di Rosemberg was published at Adria 
in 1835 and this may have been the opera produced there for the 
Carnival season 1834-5. 

It was by her success at Trieste, however, in Rossini's Matilde di 
Shabran, that Giuseppina really made a name for herself. // Figaro 
reported on 31st January 1835: 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 57 

No one would have imagined that the young debutante Signora Strepponi 
would be able to open her career under such happy auspices. The manage- 
ment and the public expected much of her, but not as much as she achieved. 
And truly Madamigella Strepponi performed her part, of no slight 
importance, with skill such as few possess, and revealed a voice of the 
greatest clarity, very limpid and beautiful, in perfect intonation. Agility is 
another of her good qualities, so that she performed and performs things 
of the most notable difficulty. As regards the stage, too, we are informed 
that one would not have taken her for a beginner. Self-possessed, alert and 
always animated, she depicted the character of Matilde with the necessary 
variety and with more than ordinary intelligence. 

In Donizetti's Anna Bolena, in the role of Jane Seymour, she shared 
the honours with the famous Eugenia Tadolini, and it was in this 
opera that she first sang in Vienna in the following April, with 
Amalia Schutz-Oldosi. Again she won golden opinions. The 
Allgemeine Theater zeitung on 2nd May had this comment on her 
appearance as Adalgisa in Norma: 

Her performance was so animated by deep inner feeling, she displayed, 
together with delightful vigour, virtuosity and a very considerable voice, 
so much charm and grace in her singing, that the effect could not be other 
than excellent, and the highly talented artist emphatically took today a 
place of honour immediately beside Signora Schutz-Oldosi. Especially 
admirable and pleasurable was the masterly co-operation of the two artists 
in the finale of the first act and in the duet in the second act, which can be 
called the high light of the performance, and aroused such storms of 
applause that it had to be repeated and the two singers were recalled four 
times. 

There was a full house for La Sonnambula, chosen for her benefit 
performance on 15th May. 

An outbreak of cholera closed many theatres in Italy during the 
summer and early autumn of this year, but Giuseppina's career was 
not interrupted. Under a minor impresario, Valentino Trevisan, she 
appeared successively at Udine, Gorizia and Verona, already a prima 
donna assoluta among a company of lesser fame. Everywhere she 
aroused the greatest enthusiasm. Citizens of Udine wrote to the 
editor of II Pirata complaining that he had insufficiently praised her 
performance in La Sonnambula. After Verona Trevisan's company 
went on to Rovigo, but without Giuseppina, who had been engaged 
by another impresario, Camillo Cirelli, for the Teatro San Benedetto 
at Venice. There Coppola's Nina pazza per amore was not much liked, 
but a writer in 77 Gondolier e for 11th November went into ecstasies 
about the new prima donna : 

A real treasure, a dear young singer, la Strepponi, who at the dawn of 
her career treads the stage in masterly fashion and who from the first 
performance, or rather from the first instant in which, from the wings, 



58 THE MAN VERDI 

we saw her open her angelic lips to intone that melancholy romance, 
awakened in us the keenest delight and obtained universal tributes of 
applause. A limpid, penetrating, smooth voice, seemly action, a lovely 
figure; and to Nature's liberal endowments she adds an excellent technique, 
which will soon cause her to shine among the brightest stars of the Italian 
theatre. 

The same writer, a little later, criticized her excessive trills and 
fioriture in La Sonnambula. Bellini's opera was again chosen for 
Giuseppina's benefit performance and on this occasion sonnets were 
composed in her honour and portraits published. Within a year of her 
debut she was firmly established on the stage and already in much 
demand. 

Cirelli took his company from Venice to Brescia, where Giuseppina 
had a personal success in an otherwise disastrous Carnival season. 
The opening opera, Coppola's Nina pazza per amore, was coldly 
received and a new ballet laughed off the stage. Ricci's UOrfanella 
di Ginevra was also a failure. Then Giuseppina, with her favourite 
work, saved the situation. // Figaro announced on 13th February: 
' At last an opera found grace and indeed favour in this theatre — La 
Sonnambula. The protagonist Strepponi was praised to the skies and 
accompanied in all her pieces by clamorous evvivas.' 

Back at Venice in the spring, this time at the Teatro La Fenice 
under the impresario Natale Fabrici, Giuseppina appeared first in 
La gazza ladra, which was a complete failure. Apparently a ballet 
was performed between the acts of the opera, and, according to // 
Gondoliere, 'it was observed that as soon as the ballet was over the 
theatre, which was not very crowded, was abandoned by half the 
spectators, and that when the concluding aria of the second act was 
finally reached it was not easy to decide whether the people on the 
stage and in the orchestra were more numerous than those that had 
stayed in their places in the audience'. // Gondoliere did not name the 
singers at all, but // Pirata mentioned that Giuseppina's part was 
much too low for her. Perhaps for the same reason Cenerentola too 
was only moderately successful, but / Puritani and Nina pazza per 
amore were well received, especially after the company moved from 
the Teatro La Fenice to the Teatro Apollo. // Figaro praised Giusep- 
pina, but issued a warning as well : 

The role of Nina, especially, is performed by her in an enchanting way. 
What a pity that this fine young artist sings in so many consecutive seasons, 
with grave danger that she will weaken and spoil her bright and attractive 



Fabrici transferred his company in June to Mantua, where per- 
formances of the most successful operas of the Venetian season 
brought Giuseppina further applause and glowing press notices. Her 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 59 

benefit night on 23rd June produced 'showers of verses and flowers'. 
A month later she was singing at Piacenza, again under Cirelli's 
management. // Figaro on 15th July repeated its warning: 

La Strepponi, who we believed would wish at length to rest from her 
continued glorious labours in various theatres, has now gone to Piacenza, 
where she will certainly earn as much applause as she did at Venice and 
Mantua. We hope, however, that excessive activity may not prove harmful, 
and prevent her from gathering those greater laurels to which she may 
before very long aspire. 

The reason for this incessant activity was probably the need to 
provide for her mother, younger sister and two little brothers. 

At Piacenza she surprised everybody by her versatility. Hitherto 
her greatest successes had been in serious roles, but now in Luigi 
Ricci's Urtavventura di Scaramuccia she revealed remarkable talent 
for comedy. 'No one could believe that this was the first time she had 
appeared in true opera buffa.' UElisir d'amore was also successful but 
aroused less enthusiasm than Ricci's opera. 

Still she gave herself no rest. At the end of August and in September 
she was singing at Cremona, in October, November and December 
again at Venice, at the Teatro Apollo. All too often, appearing in 
indifferent company, she had to bear responsibility for the success or 
failure of the whole season. At Cremona she was 'tormented by a 
heavy cold' and after the first performance there of Mercadante's / 
Normanni a Parigi, Donizetti's Belisario, in which her role was less 
arduous, was restored. The Cremona correspondent of // Figaro 
accused her at this time of a tremolo, of exaggeration in her acting, 
and of forcing her voice. At Venice, in the title-role of Norma, but 
with inferior companions, she again had to carry the whole weight of 
the performance on her shoulders; II Pirata declared on 4th 
November : 

But with that Adalgisa (Signora Saglio) and that Pollione (Signor 
Mazzoni) there were bound to be disasters, and there were. Almost every- 
thing was received in silence, and many pieces were unrecognizable, and if 
those gentry ever imagined they were sometimes earning applause, in 
choruses, duets and trios, it is well to advise them that that applause was 
addressed only to la Strepponi, with whom they were singing. She is always 
admirable, always capable and full of spirit. 

The tenor Giovanni Basadonna, who arrived back from Vienna just 
then, was recruited, and thanks to him and to Giuseppina La 
Sonnambula was well received. But Bellini's La Straniera was also 
put on with an inadequate cast: 'If there had been a decent bass the 
opera would have been praised to the skies — when Strepponi sings 
one expects nothing else.' 
At Trieste in the Carnival season 1836-7, in Buzzola's Ferramondo, 
*c 



60 THE MAN VERDI 

Giuseppina was 'interrupted at every moment by the most nattering 
signs of appreciation'. On 23rd February 1837 she sang the role of 
Juliet in / Capuleti e i Montecchi, with the great Giuditta Grisi as 
Romeo, and did not fail to rise to the occasion. // Pirata's critic 
wrote: 

In the face of such a powerful rival Madamigella Strepponi surpassed 
herself and with surprising emulation disputed the palm with her otherwise 
dearest Romeo ; and if she did not equal her [Grisi] in emotional expres- 
sion, she certainly surpassed her in musical worth, so that, in general, 
judgment is suspended. 

After this Alessandro Lanari engaged her for Bologna and Faenza, 
in which towns she appeared with the famous tenor Napoleone 
Moriani (1808-78) and the baritone Domenico Cosselli. Proof that 
this was the first time she sang for Lanari is found in the impresario's 
correspondence at Florence, which includes copies of many of his 
own letters : 

Lanari to Giuseppina Strepponi, 6th February 1837: 

I am pleased beyond measure that, earlier than I expected, I am able to 
give you unequivocal proof of my esteem, in entrusting to you parts of 
exceptional importance, with famous companions like Moriani and 
Cosselli. I am confident that this first affair concluded between us will lead 
to others, to our mutual satisfaction. 

Giuseppina was warmly congratulated in the theatrical papers on 
her successes in this distinguished company, in Marino Faliero, Lucia 
di Lammermoor and / Puritani, though it was Moriani who aroused 
the most fanatical enthusiasm in the audiences. There were extra- 
ordinary scenes on his benefit night at Bologna. At Faenza Marino 
Faliero was applauded from beginning to end. 

It is pleasing to note that Giuseppina was not too proud to reappear 
at Lodi, at a concert given by the Istituto Filarmonico d'lncorragia- 
mento, on 28th July. 

A long autumn season at the Teatro Carignano, Turin, under the 
impresario Vincenzo Giaccone, began rather badly. Auber's Muette 
de Portici, with Giuseppina and the tenor Domenico Donzelli, was 
not liked and was replaced by a too hurriedly prepared production of 
Donizetti's // Furioso alV isola di San Domingo. Later performances 
of La Muette de Portici had a better reception, but Gnecco's La 
prova d'urt opera seria, though antiquated and over familiar ('ranci- 
dissima' according to the Turin correspondent of// Piratd) was the 
first great success of the season. Music by other composers was 
incorporated in the old opera, as // Messaggiere Torinese reported: 
'La Strepponi sang excellently and was very much applauded, 
principally in her cavatina and in the rondo, which pieces, however, 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 61 

form no part of the original score but were grafted on to it, in 
accordance with present custom.' According to // Figaro, the 'suave 
notes' of Bellini's Pirata, on 14th October, were balm to the ears of 
the 'cultured public of Turin', who by this time had had more than 
enough of the 'most learned, deafening music of Auber'. 

So far it has been possible, from the files of contemporary papers, 
to follow Giuseppina's uninterrupted progress from one theatre to 
another. But after the end-of-season concert at Turin on 3rd Decem- 
ber 1837 she disappears from sight for over three months, until she is 
reported as having sung at Turin at another concert on 11th March 
1838. She is nowhere listed among the artists engaged for the impor- 
tant Carnival season of 1837-8. Why was this? The most likely 
explanation is that this was the time of the birth of Camillino, her 
first illegitimate child. Three months' absence from the stage is about 
the minimum time that would have been required if a public scandal 
was to be avoided, for the last stages of pregnancy, the confinement, 
convalescence and preparation for the resumption of her career. 
There are only two other such gaps in the record of Giuseppina's 
appearances, and of these the first, from 1st March to 10th June 
1840, is covered by a medical certificate which declares that at that 
time she was 'noticeably losing weight' — hardly a symptom of 
pregnancy — while the second, from towards the end of October 1841 
to 18th January 1842, is quite definitely the time of the birth of her 
second child, as is shown by her own letters. So it seems almost 
certain that Camillino was born somewhere about February 1838. It 
is uncertain where Giuseppina lived during this period — she did not 
stay at Turin. 

This is also the time of Giuseppina's closer connection with 
Alessandro Lanari. // Figaro, on 7th February 1838, had this 
announcement: 

The distinguished prima donna assoluta Signora Giuseppina Strepponi 
has been engaged for a year by the theatrical contractor Signor Alessandro 
Lanari. 

On 3rd March the same paper announced that Napoleone Moriani 
had signed on for another year with Lanari and that the impresario 
would be putting on a season of opera at the Teatro Argentina in 
Rome in the spring, with Giuseppina Strepponi, Moriani and Giorgio 
Ronconi. 

If she had not signed a long-term contract with Lanari, Giuseppina 
might have appeared either in Lisbon or in London. Bartolomeo 
Merelli wrote to Lanari on 13th March: 'The Lisbon impresario, 
against all my expectations, has refused to accept your recommenda- 
tion, saying that you have taken la Strepponi away from him, whom 
he wished to engage.' // Figaro had noted on 7th March: 



62 THE MAN VERDI 

The day before yesterday Signora Strepponi left for Turin, selected and 
engaged to sing in the concerts to be given at that Royal Court during 
Lent. She will then, as we have already reported, betake herself to the 
Teatro Argentina, Rome, with Lanari, owing to which engagement she was 
unable to accept the generous offers of Signor Laporte, impresario of the 
King's Theatre of Italian Grand Opera in London. 

In Rome, in Lucia di Lammermoor, Giuseppina, Moriani and 
Ronconi won some of the greatest triumphs of their careers. Moriani, 
above all, drove the crowds wild with delight. At 'Tu che al ciel 
spiegasti l'ali', in the last act, the audience were so moved that they 
could not contain themselves and, according to // Figaro, ' believed 
it must be an angelic spirit who ravished their ears, aroused their 
enthusiasm and permitted them to taste celestial delights'. All three 
singers appeared on 3rd May at a concert at Prince Massimi's 
sumptuous country villa, in honour of the Grand Duke of Tuscany 
and another royal visitor from Saxony. Lucia di Lammermoor was 
also performed once at the Teatro Apollo with immense success, and 
as extra items 'La Strepponi sang the cavatina from Belisario, to 
infinite applause; Moriani and Ronconi sang the duet / Marinai 
[from Rossini's Soirees Musicales], accompanied at the piano by la 
Strepponi'. Pia de" Tolomei opened before a restless audience, who 
probably wished to go on hearing repetitions of these stupendous 
performances of Lucia di Lammermoor. But after a few days Pia de 1 
Tolomei also won great favour. Giuseppina was 'sublime in the 
poison scene in the third act', while Moriani made the spectators 
weep in the pathetic aria in the second act ' Mi tragge a te benefica 
celeste man'. 

Lanari could be well content with his new acquisition and with his 
company generally. Before the singers separated for their various 
summer engagements he brought them all to Florence, as was noted 
in // Pirata on 6th July: 

The season at the Teatro Argentina in Rome having closed on 1 8th June 
amid the most clamorous acclamations, the three champions who had 
gathered such laurels on the Tiber, la Strepponi, Moriani and Ronconi, 
moved to Florence. As soon as they arrived they were invited to appear at 
a brilliant concert given by Prince Poniatowski on 25th June at his palazzo, 
in honour of the Duke of Lucca, the brother of the King of Naples, the 
Princess of Syracuse and many other personages of high rank. 

Prince Poniatowski and the Princess of Syracuse both sang at this 
concert; Giuseppina contributed the cavatina from Norma, a duet 
from Roberto Devereux with Moriani and a duet from / Normanni a 
Parigi with Ronconi. On the first three days of July three special 
performances of Lucia di Lammermoor were given at Florence. 
Immense and fanatical crowds filled the Teatro della Pergola and at 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 63 

the last performance the artists were recalled quite twenty times. 
After this Moriani left for his summer engagement at Sinigaglia, 
while Ronconi and Giuseppina went to Leghorn, to continue their 
triumphs. 

Towards the end of August and in September Giuseppina was at 
Cremona, appearing with lesser singers in Lucia di Lammermoor and 
Norma, and leaving the audiences 'transported and ravished'. A 
letter to Lanari has survived from this period : 

Cremona, 29th September 1838. 
Dear Lanari, 

In reply to your most kind letters of the 22nd and 27th, I could not wish 
for more applause, through the success of Norma. You will have learned 
from all the papers about the favourable reception of that score. To tell 
you the truth, I should not be pleased to appear in it at Florence, as it 
does not seem to me the most suitable score for Balestracci, with whom I 
should have to sing. 

On 9th October at the latest I shall be at Florence, where I hope to find 
your letters. I hear with much satisfaction about the brilliant success of 
Lucrezia Borgia; with the artists you have at present it seems to me 
impossible that it should be otherwise. I wish you continued good luck. 
Tell me if there is anything I can do for you, and believe me 
Your affectionate friend, 

Giuseppina Strepponi. 

She had been singing with the tenor Balestracci at Cremona. The 
success of Lucrezia Borgia, referred to in this letter, took place at 
Lucca, with Moriani in the cast. 

A stay of some months at Florence followed, with appearances at 
two different theatres under Lanari's management. Letters from 
Pietro Romani, 1 director of the orchestra at the Teatro Alfieri, to 
Lanari, who was with another company of singers at Venice, throw 
much light on conditions in the operatic world of that time. Engage- 
ments to sing in five performances a week were by no means excep- 
tional. Once, towards the end of October, when Giuseppina was ill 
and unable to appear, she had to promise to sing six times in the 
following week. Her illness is mentioned several times : 

Romani to Lanari, end of October 1838: 

La Strepponi is still unwell, being assailed on the stage by bouts of 
coughing — it's pitiable. 

Early November: 

Last night the opera went very well, but in her aria in the first act la 
Strepponi was overcome by such a cough that she had to retire behind the 
scenes without finishing. 

1 Chiefly remembered today as author of the aria ' Manca un foglio ', which for a long 
time replaced Rossini's own 'A un dottor della mia sorte', in The Barber of Seville. 



64 THE MAN VERDI 

Romani was a great admirer of Giuseppina and his letters include 
some fine tributes to her artistry. He wrote that she and the celebrated 
Caroline Unger (Carolina Ungher, in Italy) were the only prime 
donne worth anything in the whole country, and the only singers 
capable of executing a proper trill. Further : ' I say that among the 
young singers la Strepponi is Number One.' 

Moriani was at Venice in the early autumn, with Caroline Unger 
and Domenico Cosselli, until Lanari brought these artists also to 
Florence and they sang at the Teatro Alfieri while Giuseppina was 
appearing at the Teatro Cocomero. But on 2nd December Moriani 
joined Giuseppina and the baritone Superchi in Lucia di Lammermoor 
at the Teatro Cocomero. Some interesting concerts were given at 
Florence in that winter. Giuseppina appeared twice, with Caroline 
Unger and Moriani, at the Grand Ducal Court, on 8th and 11th 
December, and at the second of these concerts no less a person than 
Liszt also performed. Then on 26th December a concert for Liszt's 
own benefit was given at the Teatro Cocomero and at this concert 
Giuseppina was acclaimed above all the other singers in the vocal 
part of the programme; Liszt himself played a Fantasia on Pacini's 
cavatina 'I tuoi frequenti palpiti' (from Niobe) and improvised on a 
theme from La Sonnambula — probably a theme from an aria sung 
by Giuseppina. The last item on the programme was ' a magnificent 
symphony by Mozart, performed with admirable accord, in an 
arrangement for twelve hands on three pianos, by Signori Liszt, Pixis, 
Leidesdorf, Doglia, Garello and Manetti'. At a concert of the 
Florentine Philharmonic Society on 6th January 1839 Giuseppina 
sang, among other things, the cavatina from Pacini's Niobe used by 
Liszt for his Fantasia in the earlier concert. 

Bartolomeo Merelli had opened negotiations with Lanari for the 
cession of Giuseppina and Ronconi in 1838, but no mutually satis- 
factory agreement had been reached for that year. At length, in 
December, Merelli had persuaded Lanari to cede these artists, 
together with Moriani, for the following spring. 

Merelli to Lanari, 3rd December 1838: 

I shall take then Moriani, la Strepponi and Giorgio Ronconi for the 
spring of 1839 at La Scala, to commence on Easter Monday and end about 
1st July, giving five performances a week, and three or four operas. ... As 
for the price, I offer you 32,000 Austrian lire, at the current rate of exchange. 

After some dispute about the price, and who should pay the travelling 
expenses, full agreement was reached on 19th December. But on 16th 
January 1839 Merelli put a rather startling query to Lanari: 

Reply at once and tell me if the rumour is true that la Strepponi is five 
months gone with child, for how should I get on in that case? 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 65 

Lanari replied from Venice on 18th January: 'As for la Strepponi, I 
believe all that has reached your ears is groundless tittle-tattle.' But 
if he was not lying he was mistaken, and was to find out his mistake 
within a few days. Further letters from Romani to Lanari and Lanari 
to Giuseppina show that this was not a false alarm. On 23rd January 
Lanari thanked Giuseppina for confiding in him and encouraged her 
to hope that all would go well. Romani was to coach another soprano, 
AmaUa Mattioli, in the part Giuseppina was due to sing shortly at 
Venice; Cirelli was to write to Milan, arranging for this singer to be 
praised particularly in the papers, so as to impress the Venetian 
authorities: 'As for the result, it will be what it will be; I am sure 
that with my Peppina the triumph would have been complete, but 
we must be patient, and what we can't do now, we'll do another time.' 
Romani rarely dated his letters, so that they are difficult to arrange 
in their exact order. Lanari on receipt generally noted down the 
month and the year. About a dozen letters from January and 
February 1839 refer to Giuseppina's pregnancy and its consequences. 
Some of these may be quoted: 

Cirelli has arrived and this morning he told me in confidence about 
Peppina's condition. He said you had suggested that he should confide in 
me and that I should find some way of having a legally valid certificate 
made out. I shall try to arrange everything, but would like to have the 
order from you, and to know what you want me to do and have done. 

I wanted to put on Gemma di Vergy but, as I told you, Ercole is unable 
to learn a part in a few days, and then, as I've already mentioned, la 
Strepponi arouses such a furore that any opera whatsoever, given without 
her, would be rejected by the public. ... In Florence one cannot say that 
la Strepponi is unwell ; the public knows that she is pregnant, sees it, but 
applauds her; and I assure you that without her there would be a grand 
fiasco. 

However unhappy the circumstances, this was a magnificent tribute 
to Giuseppina. The dramatic intensity of her singing in Mercadante's 
// Giuramento was remarked on in // Figaro on 6th February 1839: 

The greatest triumph of la Strepponi was in the third act, where she 
delivered the prayer with such deep feeling, and declaimed and sang the 
duet with Viscardo with such abandon, as to transport the audience, who 
burst into the loudest acclamation, astonished at such dramatic truth. 

All the evidence we have points to the probability that the abandon- 
ment with which Giuseppina threw herself into her role in this opera 
brought on a miscarriage. On 9th February Romani wrote to Lanari : 

You will have heard from Gazzuoli about la Strepponi's illness. To tell 
the truth, among so many misfortunes I did not anticipate, in addition, this 
of not being able to finish the season A consultation of three Florentine 



66 THE MAN VERDI 

doctors has been ordered. . . . Besides the very considerable loss that this 
illness causes you at Florence, there is also that at Venice. 

The impresario was committed to giving a certain number of per- 
formances at each of the theatres under his control, and the illness of 
an important singer could upset his calculations very badly. It had 
been his intention to call Giuseppina to Venice. Now this was out of 
the question for the moment, and the young soprano Amalia Mattioli 
was dispatched in her place. Romani's letters discuss how the 
situation could best be met, what use could be made, for the impre- 
sario's benefit, of the doctor's certificate, and whether it was possible 
to give it a false date. Lanari wrote to Giuseppina, urging her to come 
to Venice as soon as she could, and to Romani, asking him, it would 
seem, to bring all possible pressure to bear, to make her do so. 
Fortunately for Giuseppina, the impresario and theatrical agent 
Camillo Cirelli was still at Florence, and he vigorously stood up for 
her, insisting that she was in no fit state to resume her career. 
Romani's language shows his annoyance : 

As soon as I had read your letter I made preparations to receive the 
doctors who must come to verify la Strepponi's illness. I also went to see 
her, and she told me the content of the letter you wrote her. Not only did 
I back you up, but I begged, I argued and finally I persuaded her to come 

to Venice. That f Cirelli made a bloody nuisance of himself, and 

finally he told me he was going to call Contrucci and would decide accord- 
ing to what he had to say. I have perambulated not merely half Florence, 
but the whole of it, and everywhere I left messages for him [Contrucci] ; 
I wanted to speak to him, to put into his mouth the words he was to say, 
but I did not succeed. But with la Strepponi as I left her, I believe she will 
certainly come to sing for you for at least half a dozen performances. If 
Cirelli had not been there I should have made her leave at once, I had so 
thoroughly convinced her. Cirelli will also write to you about this. 

Cirelli, for whom Giuseppina had sung in 1835 and 1836, proved 
a very good friend. He was consistently helpful, at this time and later, 
and it is possible that he had been Camillino's godfather, and had 
given him his Christian name. The responsibilities of such a relation- 
ship are not undertaken lightly in Italy. 1 

Romani was able to arrange everything according to Lanari's 
wishes, and even it seems to square the doctors: 'You can be sure 

1 There is evidence in Lanari's correspondence that Cirelli kept an eye on Guiseppina's 
finances, and on her family. 

G. B. Villa, Milan, to Lanari, 11th July 1840: 'Yesterday Cirelli asked me if I had 
orders to pay Signora Strepponi's mother the 540 lire. I said I had not.' 

G. B. Villa to Lanari. 22nd July 1840: 'I sent the 540 lire to Signora Strepponi's 
mother at once.' 

Lanari to Cirelli, Florence, 5th April 1841: 'I am leaving tonight for Ancona. . . . 
Peppina leaves with me and I advise you that on Tuesday the 6th I am sending to you 
at Milan a package by post containing 186 gold napoleons, by order and on account of 
Peppina Strepponi.' 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 67 

that dog does not eat dog; these grave-diggers will come to agree- 
ment among themselves.' In connection with another singer whom he 
had decided not to engage, he wrote : ' Carlotta told me she is preg- 
nant, and I don't want anything more to do with pregnant women.' 
A brief note from Giuseppina to Lanari at Venice survives from 
this time: 

Florence, 23rd February 1839. 
Dear Lanari, 

I am waiting for the Tuesday post, and if it brings me my orders to leave 
this will be the last letter you will receive from Florence. I am sorry about 
all your ups and downs, but for Acts of God there 's no remedy. You see, 
however, that as far as I myself am concerned I am most willing to help 
you, although I cannot say that I have completely recovered. My part is 
almost in my head ; my good will is the same as ever, and so is the friend- 
ship of your affectionate 

Peppina. 

Lanari's troubles, referred to in this note, included, besides Giusep- 
pina's own illness, the indisposition of Caroline Unger and Ronconi 
at Venice. The part that Giuseppina had almost by heart was a role 
in another of Mercadante's operas, Le due illustri rivali, which, when 
all the principal singers had recovered, was successfully produced at 
the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, on 12th March, with Caroline Unger, 
Giuseppina Strepponi, Moriani and the bass Ignacio Marini. 77 
Figaro on 16th March had this comment: 

The prima donna Signora Giuseppina Strepponi, having recovered, after 
a brief rest at Florence, from a slight indisposition, hastened to Venice, 
where she appeared, as already reported, in Le due illustri rivali. Thus were 
answered the prayers of the Venetians, and annihilated the rumours of 
those who declared she was still ill and in no fit state at the moment to 
take on her new and important engagements. 

Together with several of her companions at Venice, she was now 
due to appear for Merelli at La Scala, Milan. 

The Milanese season opened on 1st April with Lucia di Lammer- 
moor, with Moriani, Ronconi and Adelaide Kemble, whose English 
accent did not please. Giuseppina made her debut at La Scala in I 
Puritani on 20th April. This opera and UElisir d'amore were the 
successes of the season; Pia de* Tolomei, produced first on 11th 
June, had only three performances. Merelli was unlucky. It was now 
Moriani's turn to be ill. 

Merelli to Lanari, 24th April 1839: 

I Puritani pleased immensely for the first two acts (with the triumph of 
la Strepponi and also of Ronconi and Moriani) but b> the third act 
Moriani had no voice left, so that he was unable to arouse the customary 



68 THE MAN VERDI 

fanatical enthusiasm. At the second performance he got no further than 
the first act; afterwards I closed the theatre; this evening and tomorrow I 
am putting on Lucia with the substitute singer and thus (to my incalculable 
loss) I am letting him rest until Saturday, when he will appear in possession 
of all his means. 

The same, 1st May: 

/ Puritani returned to the stage last Saturday with much better success 
on the part of Moriani who, however, did not sing the last number or the 
end of the duet with la Strepponi ; on the following Sunday we had Ronconi 
ill and put on the opera with the substitute Berini — imagine the loss! 
Yesterday evening la Strepponi was indisposed but did what she could, so 
that today she is resting and I'm afraid I shall have to put on Lucia 
tomorrow. 

This was the time when Verdi's Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio was 
under consideration for one of the annual charity performances. The 
singers were given their parts to study, Giuseppina and Ronconi 
being much impressed by the music, before Moriani's illness put an 
end to Verdi's hopes of immediate production. 

Merelli to Lanari, 20th May: 

UElisir d'amore aroused fanatical enthusiasm. La Strepponi and Ronconi 
non plus ultra. Lonati and Moriani did well. After so many troubles 
and pains I am comforted at last, but it 's little use, because now it 's too 
late; the gentry are beginning to leave for the country. 

25th May: 

The furore aroused by la Strepponi in UElisir d'amore is such, and so 
well merited, that she is being bombarded with offers. She expressed her 
displeasure that among them all I stood silent, without offering her a 
contract. In view of that, as the other people's offers haven't got very far, 
so as not to lose her I decided to offer her a contract for two years, at 
40,000 lire a year, for Italy alone, including Vienna, and in addition the 
expenses of travelling and lodgings, according to your usual style. I have 
told her also of my intention of doing nothing without you and she replied 
that she would write to you. So I advise you in advance that I shall not go 
beyond that sum, and that I shall await your instructions. 

Lanari to Merelli, 28th May: 

La Strepponi has repeatedly promised to give me the preference, other 
things being equal, in signing contracts for the future, after the expiration 
of that at present in force. After the proofs of esteem, friendship and 
deference that I have always given her, I am sure she will keep her word. 

Before the season ended Moriani again fell ill and went away to 
Genoa for a week, returning however in time to appear with Giusep- 
pina and Ronconi in Lucia di Lammermoor from 22nd June onwards. 
This work was now perfectly performed, and the season ended in a 
blaze of glory. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 69 

Giuseppina's appearances in the last few performances of Lucia di 
Lammermoor, in place of Miss Kemble, and comments thereon in the 
correspondence of the impresarios, are the subject of a letter she wrote 
to Lanari on 23rd June : 

Milan, 23rd June 1839. 
Dear Lanari, 

Cirelli has shown me a paragraph of your letter No. 1019 which concerns 
me, where I am amazed to find myself badly treated and unjustly accused 
of failing in my duty, and that according to a letter sent to you by Merelli 
on the 15th of this month. 

I at once asked him about this and he denies the whole thing, and defies 
you to show me, on my arrival at Sinigaglia, any such letters of his. They 
always spoke to me about doing a favour, so I must suppose that I was not 
obliged to take Mile Kemble's place ; however I made no objection to the 
first proposal, made to me by Signor Villa in my dressing-room at the 
theatre on the 13th of this month, that I should take over the part of Lucia; 
I agreed after a little persuasion and the part was given to me on the arrival 
from Vienna of Merelli, who would have grossly lied if he had written 
in the terms you indicate. 

What has displeased me most in this matter is that, abusing my com- 
plaisance in giving you preference over other impresarios for long contracts, 
you thought fit to prescribe to Merelli that he should not go beyond a 
salary of 40,000 Austrian lire a year, so as to be able to get me back when 
you need me in your theatres, having regard to the fact that, these theatres 
being of lesser importance, you would be able to buy me back from him 
at a lower fee. 

As a result of that, accepting the advice of my friends, including Signor 
Villa, I shall never again hire myself out by the year, but shall wait and 
see how things turn out, since even if I should earn less money, I shall at 
any rate have less work to do, and shall not hear myself constantly 
reproved like a refractory schoolgirl. 

Keep well, give my regards to your family, and believe me 

Your most affectionate friend, 

GlUSEPPINA STREPPONI. 

The letter is interesting in that it shows Giuseppina vigorously 
defending herself and her interests against these old theatrical wolves 
and foxes. We do not know what Lanari replied, but he must have 
been able to convince her that Merelli, who obviously wished to 
secure Giuseppina for his own theatres, was playing a double game. 
It is true that Lanari, writing to Merelli on 28th May, had remarked 
that if they came to an agreement to share her services she would 
naturally have to be paid more for singing in Vienna or at Milan 
than for appearances in Tuscany or other smaller theatres. But 
Merelli, on 25th May, in a letter already quoted, had declared in 
advance that he would not go beyond 40,000 lire a year — the figure 
which he accused Lanari of prescribing to him. Giuseppina kept her 



70 THE MAN VERDI 

word and remained under Lanari's control for the next three years. 
As appears from subsequent correspondence between the impresarios, 
she soon decided she did not wish to return to Milan. 

Lanari to Merelli, 11th January 1840: 

I assure you that where I make use of la Strepponi myself for some other 
theatre, I will let you have her on the same terms. If we come to such an 
arrangement, however, it would be necessary to keep the whole affair 
secret and allow no one to hear of it, so that la Strepponi doesn't get to 
know about it, she having told me that I should greatly displease her if I 
sent her to Milan. To this antiphony I replied neither yes nor no. 

Temistocle Solera, the future librettist of Nabucco, contributed to 
the Strenna teatrale europea for 1840 a sketch of Giuseppina, based 
on recollections of the spring season at La Scala in 1839. Milan had 
admired in her 

the most beautiful natural gifts rendered great by continual study, so that 
in both the serious style and the comic she caused the many celebrated 
singers who had preceded her to be forgotten. Gifted with extreme 
sensitivity, she knows how to win the hearts of the spectators by her voice 
and her expression. Cultured and amiable in society, an excellent daughter 
and sister, she has generously accepted responsibility for her whole family, 
and her little brothers are being educated at her expense in the best schools. 
Milan wishes to hear her again. It is rumoured that she is to reappear 
among us in 1841, when she will be free from contracts undertaken with 
her present manager, Signor Alessandro Lanari. And Milan is right to 
want her back. Most praiseworthy in / Puritani and Pia de' Tolomei (an 
opera that did not please very much, although she, Moriani and Giorgio 
Ronconi were applauded in it), great in Lucia and, what is more sur- 
prising, very great indeed in UElisir d'amore, it is just and natural that 
she should have made a profound and lasting impression on us and left 
here the desire to hear her again. Who is there that did not weep at her 
tears, in the first three of the scores mentioned above, and especially in 
Lucia, in which opera, on the first evening (not to mention those that 
followed), she was called back on to the stage twenty-three times? And who 
is there that was not made happy by her laugh in that delightful jest by 
Romani and Donizetti, UElisir d' amor el Find me if you can an Adina 
more brisk, more freakish, more lovable, and deny if you can that singers 
are rare indeed whom both serious and comic roles suit so well. 

From Milan, Giuseppina, Moriani and Ronconi moved on to 
Sinigaglia, where they appeared at the Teatro Fenice, newly risen 
again from the ashes to which a fire had reduced it during Lanari's 
previous summer season there. Lucia di Lammermoor and UElisir 
d' amove aroused the usual enthusiasm; // Giuramento was less 
successful. At Lucca in August and early September the same artists 
repeated their now celebrated performances of Lucia, before Moriani 
left to fulfil an engagement at Trieste. Giuseppina and Ronconi 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 71 

appeared together in other operas at Lucca in September and at the 
Teatro della Pergola, Florence, in October and November, to the 
unfailing delight of the audiences. For the Carnival season 1839-40 
they were both engaged for Verona. 

In general, Lanari must have been pleased with his season at 
Verona : Parisina, I Puritani, Maria di Rudenz and IJElisir d'amore 
were all rapturously received, according to reports in the papers. But 
there was also some trouble. Giuseppina had her share of the honours, 
but she was not well. While the newspapers referred only to passing 
indispositions, Lanari was sufficiently concerned about her throat 
and gastro-enteric troubles, causing loss of weight, to write to Milan 
and engage another soprano, Giuseppina Ronzi. This singer, in a 
letter of 22nd January 1840, at first refused to come, saying that it 
would not be worth her while for six or eight performances and that 
she had no desire to cause displeasure to his other prima donna. But 
Lanari, two days later, assured her that the doctors had ordered 
Giuseppina to rest, and so Madame Ronzi appeared at Verona, with 
great success, in Roberto Devereux. Giuseppina was furious ! 

Moriani was at this time at Milan again and some of the rumours 
that had reached him about events at Verona are reported in his 
letters to Lanari. 

Moriani to Lanari, 24th January: 

A thousand stories, displeasing to me, are told here. It is said that la 
Strepponi can't sing any more and has commissioned you to sign up 
another prima donna, that your costumes are horrible and that you are 
doing hateful and niggardly things that even Trevisan and the other 
wretched impresarios have never done; finally that you can't even leave 
the house. 

When you have to pay money to Regli don't make use of that chatterbox 
Villa any more. All Milan is saying that you have paid Regli 100 svanziche 
to praise your theatrical productions; this gossip is displeasing also to 
Regli himself. 

Regli was the editor of 77 Pirata. 

The quarrel between Giuseppina and Lanari is referred to in one 
of Romani's letters: 'I am astonished at what you tell me about la 
Strepponi, but be careful not to release her, and if she doesn't want 
to sing, at least prevent her from singing in other theatres, and let her 
lose her pay.' Soon after this the quarrel was made up and after the 
end of the season at Verona Lanari gave Giuseppina two months' 
leave. She went to Milan and placed herself in the hands of Dr Moro, 
the physician officially attached to La Scala, who had treated her 
already in the previous year. Moriani, who was himself still at Milan, 
wrote to Lanari on 6th March: 

I'm glad that the war between you and Peppina is over, and with much 



72 THE MAN VERDI 

honour to both. I wish she had not been caused annoyance over that old 
barrel, la Ronzi. 1 1 am sure she has talent and knows how to make her way 
in the world, and, moreover, she would be acclaimed and adored if that 
nasty Lame Devil didn't upset her career with his bad advice, and render 
her so abject in the eyes of society. 

The identity of this 'nasty Lame Devil' (schifoso Diavolo Zoppo) is 
not easy to establish. A marginal note, however, on a letter from 
Giuseppina to Lanari of 4th April, a month later, almost certainly 
also refers to him : ' I have written to M ... of Verona in such terms 
as to free myself entirely even from the disturbance of his letters. 
Rage led me to conceive the idea of marriage, but without love it was 
impossible to go that far.' From this it would seem that in a moment 
of despair at her position as an unmarried mother she had entered 
into relations, which she afterwards regretted, with a lame 2 admirer 
at Verona, some time between December and the beginning of March. 
Lanari, who had himself been at Verona, obviously knew all about 
this. He seems to have passed the news on to Moriani, who 
may have had special reason to be interested, as we shall see. Bad 
feeling between Giuseppina and Lanari, consequent on the engage- 
ment of Giuseppina Ronzi, would seem to have been aggravated by 
the bad advice of her new protector. 

Merelli was not now particularly interested in securing Giuseppina's 
services : 

Merelli to Lanari, 23rd March 1840: 

Dispose of la Strepponi how you like! I am grateful to you, all the same, 
for making me pay more for her for a season than she costs you for a whole 
year! Accept also the offers from Rome, for I for my part give up the 
whole idea, it being proved conclusively that I was wrong to have come 
to an honest arrangement with you! . . . Please note for your future 
guidance that her engagement wouldn't even be approved, in view of her 
deterioration, noted by all those who heard her at Verona; and my 
management, which had anticipated these negotiations, has warned me to 
calculate only on permission to take her on as an extra. . . . 

7th April: 

About la Strepponi then we'll say no more, unless you could add 
Ronconi : if it would be agreeable to you to make an exchange I would 
give you Marini. . . . 

Giuseppina's letter to Lanari of 4th April, bearing the marginal 
note quoted above, is full of interest. She could make witty and 
pungent comments on her fellow artists, but she was also always 
ready to recognize the good qualities, even of her rivals. 

1 According to Francesco Formenton's Storia del Teatro Eretenio di Vicenza (Vicenza, 
1868), Giuseppina Ronzi was of 'matronale configurazione'. The word actually used by 
Moriani is 'Cassone' — meaning a large box, or chest. 

2 Unless 'Diavolo Zoppo' is only a figure of speech. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 73 

Dear Lanari, 

Many thanks for your news about the success of Le due illustri rivali. 
It couldn't be otherwise, as far as la Ungher was concerned. It remained 
to be seen how Ivanoff and la Mattioli would turn out and I am extremely 
glad that they both came up to expectation. La Mattioli's success will be 
immensely useful to you for the spring, too, for now she has acquired a 
reputation you will be able to employ her with confidence and more profit 
at the Pergola theatre. I hope you always have similar good luck in all 
your undertakings. As for myself, it seems that my native air, rest and 
medical treatment are having a good effect on my enfeebled health. God 
grant that I may completely recover ! I have seen Alary's wife, but she did 
not bring me my part in Rosmunda, as I had begged and prayed her to do. 
She said that some things had been altered and that this was the cause of 
the delay. I should be sorry if that went on for long, and I could not study 
the part in my usual way. You know that I have always disdained to pay 
court to people, either to gain more money at my benefit performances or 
to facilitate a great success. Hence at Florence and elsewhere I am deprived 
of the recommendations and protection of the Great Ones, the Maecenases, 
who decide in part the success of a performance. Sol need to seek out all 
the resources that art and my own small talent can suggest, adapt them as 
far as possible to my means, and act so that (in particular in this Rosmunda) 
the Great Ones are not hostile, and the mass of the public can appreciate 
at least my goodwill, as they have done in the past. 

Now I '11 give you an account of the opera Marino Faliero — a bit late, 
but perhaps more truthful than the others. Galli is a piece of rococo that 
one respects for its antiquity! The woman has two fine arms and is very 
plump. For the rest she has a few good low notes ; the high ones, some- 
times sharp and sometimes flat, are always unpleasant. I shall be better 
able to judge her manner of singing and acting in another opera. Fraschini 
has a fine voice. The other bass is so-so. You can deduce from that what 
sort of success there was. I heard the last performance of the other com- 
pany, in Solera's opera and one act of Coccia's, and I admired in la 
Tadolini one of the greatest talents we possess, and I applauded her with 
conviction, along with the public. Moriani (the only time I saw him) is the 
same as ever. I'll tell you about the bass some other time. 

If, as I hope, you reply to this, be prudent, and if you have something 
to tell me that must not be read by anyone else (as, having only one daily 
maid, I have asked Cirelli's clerk to fetch my letters from the post) write 
to me under another name, for instance, Signora Erminia Spillottini. I will 
go myself to fetch it, as I am alone until four in the afternoon, and alone 
all night, so can read and write freely. But in any case that 's just an idea 
of mine, for at the moment I shouldn't know where to find any secret 
matters. 

I will write to you about la Schutz's reception. Regards to your family; 
love me and believe me 

Your affectionate friend, 

G. Strepponi. 

Milan, 4th April 1840. 



74 THE MAN VERDI 

The latter part of this letter, with its suggestion of secrets and the use 
of a false name, is very curious. It seems that Lanari would not, 
without Giuseppina's assurance, necessarily have expected her to be 
'alone all night'. Solera's opera, in which Eugenia Tadolini and 
Moriani had been singing, was Ildegonda, performed three times on 
20th-22nd March. It is uncertain whether Moriani was still at Milan 
at the time of Giuseppina's letter. In the following month he wrote to 
Lanari from Vienna, suggesting a production of Mercadante's Elena 
da Feltre: 'In truth this would be an opera certain of effect for la 
Strepponi and Ronconi, and although the tenor part is not so 
attractive I should not disdain to sing it, there being a superb aria, 
which ought to suit me excellently.' 

Rosmunda was a new opera by Giulio Alary (1815-91) and not by 
Nicolai, as Gatti believed, 1 nor by Donizetti, as stated by Rodolfo 
Paoli in an article to be discussed later. 2 Rosmunda was to be produced 
at Florence and is mentioned again in Giuseppina's next letter: 

Dear Lanari, 

Your kind letter of the 25th received. I am grateful for your offer to 
allow me to rest and await better weather, but I am sorry to say I cannot 
profit by it, as a few hours before, to save money, I had arranged for the 
horses to take my carriage to Florence, and I cannot break the contract 
without paying a fine. So on the 10th or 12th of next month you will see 
me at Florence. My health seems to be improving daily, and as I hear that 
the production of Rosmunda has been postponed I shall be able to study it 
more easily and with less trouble with the composer. This is all the more 
desirable as some of the pieces must be greatly altered, or transposed 
down, for like all young composers, wishing to profit excessively by the 
top of the voice, he has written me a part that would throttle any soprano 
and bore the hearers with continual high notes. I certainly don't intend to 
sing it as it is. Thank you for the offer of the rooms ; I will tell you by word 
of mouth why I don't accept. But please find me some others, very airy; 
I don't mind whether they are in a frequented locality, as long as they are, 
I repeat, airy, and don't cost more than about 15 scudi. I have read in 77 
Pirata my name announced for Rome. I don't believe it, as it seems 
impossible that Lanari would have abandoned his customary kindness, and 
not said a word about that to me in two consecutive letters. ... I suppose 
you have prepared a pleasant surprise for me in Rome, if it 's true — that 
is, little work to do, etc., etc., for, you know, six performances a week! . . . 

Farewell, until we meet. My regards to your family. 

Your friend, 

G. Strepponi. 

Milan, 29th April 1840. 

Rosmunda was a success at the Teatro della Pergola on 10th June, 
and Giuseppina certainly won over the mass of the audience. A 

1 First edition, I, p. 181 ; second edition, p. 153. 

2 'La prima maniera della Peppina' {La Scala, Feb.-March 1944). 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 75 

contributor to II Pirata declared: 'For the rest, la Strepponi was 
received by the Florentine public as one receives a dear person, a 
precious friend, removed for a thousand reasons from the common 
sphere, and exalted through sublime powers and extraordinary 
worth.' 

Summer seasons followed at Sinigaglia and Lucca with renewed 
triumphs for Giuseppina and Ronconi in // Giuramento, and for 
Giuseppina and Caroline Unger in Le due illustri rivali. At Sinigaglia, 
while the prayer in the third act of II Giuramento was ' interrupted at 
every phrase' by shouts of enthusiasm, the death scene was received 
'in a religious silence' — the rarest of tributes from an Italian audience 
— until the fall of the curtain released a pent-up storm of applause. 
At Lucca the public was unable to decide between the two illustrious 
rival singers. Giuseppina had fully recovered from her setback at 
Verona. 

A short return visit to Florence in October was succeeded in the 
following month by appearances at the Teatro Apollo, Venice, under 
Cirelli's management, in Mercadante's 77 Bravo and Rossini's Otello. 
Revival of the latter opera was considered a hazardous undertaking, 
in view of the famous singers associated with the work in the past. 
'Never before', reported II Pirata, 'were artists of such renown as 
Donzelli, la Strepponi and Pio Botticelli seen to tremble as they did 
yesterday evening at the first performance of Otello.'' Giuseppina had 
had to learn the role of Desdemona in a few days. After a shaky 
beginning she surpassed all expectation. During the scene in the 
second act where Desdemona lies prostrate at her father's feet, 
begging forgiveness, both Giuseppina on the stage and women in the 
audience were seen to be weeping. At the end of the opera she took 
eleven curtain calls. 

For the Carnival season of 1840-1 Lanari had ceded Giuseppina to 
Vincenzo Jacovacci, impresario of the Teatro Apollo in Rome. She 
arrived there early in December, in time to be godmother at the 
christening of Jacovacci's daughter on the 12th. Then she caught 
German measles, which prevented her from appearing at the Teatro 
Apollo until 31st December, in Marino Faliero. On 11th February 
1841 she took part in the first performance of Adelia, a new opera by 
Donizetti. This was not a very happy occasion. Jacovacci had sold 
more tickets than there were seats in the house, and the opera began 
amid uproar which still continued when Giuseppina made her entry. 
The performance was interrupted several times, two noblemen 
exchanged blows from neighbouring boxes, Jacovacci was arrested 
and the box-office receipts confiscated. Adelia, although repeated in 
calmer conditions a number of times, never became a very great 
success, in Rome or elsewhere. 

The sculptor Tenerani made a bust of Giuseppina in Rome at this 



76 THE MAN VERDI 

time. 1 After the end of the season she returned to Florence, where 
she appeared with Moriani at the Teatro della Pergola in / Puritani 
and Michelangelo e Rolla, a new opera by Federico Ricci. Moriani 
aroused the usual enthusiasm; on his benefit night he was 'unani- 
mously acclaimed and called an infinite number of times on to the 
stage, which was converted for him into a lovely garden, so numerous 
were the flowers scattered there by the audience'. These performances 
at Florence in March and early April 1841 were the last at which 
Giuseppina shared the applause with this great tenor. He left for 
Vienna and Dresden; she for Ancona and Faenza. In both the latter 
towns she appeared again with Giorgio Ronconi and delighted the 
audiences. 

Giuseppina's engagements after this were for Bergamo in August, 
under Merelli, Trieste in the autumn, under the impresario Vincenzo 
Giaccone, and Genoa in the Carnival season 1841-2, under the 
impresario Sanguineti. But she knew quite well that she would not be 
able to carry out the whole of this programme, for she was again 
pregnant. 

We have now reached the crux of our inquiry. The secret history of 
Giuseppina's affairs has largely to be read in, and between the lines 
of, the letters she wrote to Lanari during the latter half of 1841 and the 
beginning of 1842. These letters provide much concrete information, 
but as Lanari already knew most of the facts, Giuseppina could make 
use of hints and more or less veiled allusions which can be baffling. 
Some less interesting matter, such as elaborate financial calculations, 
involving the various currencies and varying rates of exchange in 
different parts of Italy, is here omitted. Partial quotation can be very 
misleading, but in the following pages an honest attempt is made to 
present everything of significance. 

Several of the letters were written from Bergamo. The earliest, 
dated 8th August, soon after her arrival there, has this passage: 'I 
have found Merelli particularly kind, and this very day he has written 
to his agent, Signor Poggiali, that I am not to be obliged to attend 
any rehearsals if I don't want to. The rest of my private affairs are 
going less badly than they could do.' There follows a discussion of 
the advance she was to receive from Giaccone, on account of the 
season at Trieste to follow. Then some proposals for contracts in the 
future. Lanari is asked to give his decision on suggestions for a 
renewal of their contract which Giuseppina had left with him: 'They 
have asked for me in Lisbon for that year, i.e. 1844-5, and I am not 
disinclined to negotiate, seeing that the work is fight.' Another 
remark concerns the coming year, 1842: 'As I told you, if my cession 

1 The bust, now at Sant' Agata, is reproduced in Gatti's Verdi nelle immagini, but 
wrongly dated 1845. It is mentioned in the Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano for 13th 
March 1841. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 77 

to Merelli for the Lent season is proposed, please advise me early 
about that, and allow me to plead for a small number of appearances.' 
The most interesting passage is this : 

If you have occasion to see the despicable x M kindly remind him 

of the important sum of money that through your offices he agreed to pay. 
You who are my friend and know all about my troubles, and my actual 
and future situation, will see that I cannot disregard even a small claim, 
having so many expenses to meet. In truth it's enough to drive one crazy, 
thinking of my misfortunes — but God is just and no one is beyond His 
reach ! You who, I repeat, have shown a certain interest in my troubles — 
it would cost you nothing to be more careful and strict about article seven 
of the cession agreement. Woe when one must allow oneself to be seized 
by the throat, as in the present contract made at Verona, which makes me 
shudder every time I read it! Enough about that — a year at this pace and 
perhaps I shall be no more, and all claims upon one, all conflicts, end 
beyond the tomb. My poor children! My poor family! 

'Children' here, in the plural, includes Camillino and the unborn 
baby. The 'family' was her mother, brothers and sister. 

A letter of 16th August tells of the success of / Puritani on the 
previous Saturday — the opening night of the Bergamo summer 
season. It also keeps alive the subject of the renewal of the contract, 
about which Lanari had not yet replied, and adds : ' I should like to be 
able to tell you that I am well, but if I did that today I should be 
telling a He. The too keen air of these hills affects my nerves and 
causes an indisposition which one cannot call an illness, but which 
affects my voice and my humour. But one must arm oneself with 
patience and avoid sad thoughts.' Four days later she thanks Lanari 
for a letter in which he seems to have suggested she should give up 
the idea of going to Lisbon, and stay in Italy: 

With regard to the contract, you will by now have received a letter of 
mine, written on the 16th, and whether we reach agreement or not I hope 
we shall always remain good friends. You are right to talk of beautiful 
Italy, but for me good pay and not much hard work is a great attraction, 
you know. And then I need, if possible, to go far away, for some time at 
least, from places that have for me too many unhappy memories. I have 
been too cruelly treated under the mantle of love, and thoughts of the 
suffering caused me and the harm done in the past, would be painful. But 
enough about that ! I don't wish him ill, for he 's father of a family, and I 
am not so infamous as to desire his ruin, as he has caused mine. Let 's not 
talk of melancholy things. A year at this pace and I shall be calmer, 
because perhaps I shall be no more. We will wait and see the result of the 
steps taken by the impresarios of Genoa and Trieste, and that which I shall 

1 The first meaning of the Italian adjective vile would be 'cowardly'. But something 
more than 'cowardly' is required here, and something less than the English 'vile'. M. 
had been cowardly in not accepting responsibility for his actions, and thus rendered 
himself despicable, contemptible. 



78 THE MAN VERDI 

perhaps be forced to repay them will serve to remind me always of this 
infamy. The friend who comes forward with more than words is always 
that good man Cirelli. Count C. writes assiduously very amiable letters, 
but, in spite of my condition and my bad state of health, leaves me to go 
on singing to the very last moment, when by arranging in some way for 
assistance he could have relieved me of at least part of my work at Trieste. 
Or if not that, he could have written a line giving me hope of a real proof 
of friendship in my hour of need. Enough about that! We'll wait and see. 
So far his attentions have not been such as could carry any consequences 
for him. 

I note what la Ronzi writes you. That woman is not content with her 
fiascos at Venice, for the second time, at Udine and now at Brescia ; she 
wishes to continue to present herself as a target, when she could have 
conserved her fine reputation, with only one daughter to think about, and 
a good patrimony. She could have accepted an engagement at Palermo, 
with good pay, and chooses to come to Genoa, at other people's discretion? 
This woman reminds me of those birds which feed greedily on dead bodies. 
She went to Vicenza when poor Boccabadati had two of her children at 
the point of death, and on arrival there played an infamous trick on her. 
She came to Verona when my health required that I should not work so 
hard. And now I find it infamous that she should try to raise the alarm, in 
a certain way, and harm a poor mother of a family, such as I am. Uninvited, 
and depending on simple gossip, to offer herself at any price whatever? 
This is an action worthy only of a foolish or a bad woman! I hope that 
everything will be arranged (even if I can't appear on the stage on St 
Stephen's Day), thanks to Cirelli's kind heart, and Merelli too is very much 
disposed to assist me. Since I last wrote I have always been in good voice — 
i.e. for three days on end, for today, Friday, there is no performance. I 
suppose this improvement results from some powders that a doctor here 
prescribed for me. God help me! 

The title of 'C, the cautious admirer, is not quite certain. Giusep- 

pina writes 'il Con C.\ St Stephen's Day was 26th December, 

the date of the beginning of the Carnival season, when she was due 
to appear at Genoa. The baby was clearly expected in November or 
early December. 

The next letter, begun on 24th August, is pathetic, showing 
Giuseppina clutching at the hope of a lottery prize, to solve her 
problems : 

I keep forgetting to ask you to tell Nicola that, when the results come 
out of the Great Lottery of Villa Mattei, drawn in Rome, to which he is 
also a subscriber, I should be glad if he would kindly let me know about it, 
and, for his guidance, I have number 1 1,188 (eleven thousand, one hundred 
and eighty-eight). You see that is very important, for if I win the first prize 
I shall give up this antipathetic singing profession. 

The letter is continued on 27th August. It seems that the impresario 
Vincenzo Giaccone of Turin managed the theatre at Trieste through 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 79 

his son Vittorio. Giaccone the younger had passed through Bergamo 
recently and Giuseppina had arranged with him to be released, some 
time before her baby was due, from part of her engagement at 
Trieste. It was necessary to make a similar arrangement for the 
beginning of the season at Genoa. Besides Sanguineti, someone 
named Canzio was involved at Genoa ; with him Giuseppina did not 
wish to engage in correspondence on such a delicate subject. In any 
case Lanari's interests would be safeguarded and the financial sacri- 
fices involved in these necessary changes of plan would be borne by 
Giuseppina : 

In that way, released entirely at my own expense, I should at least live 
in peace, and have time to recover both my health and calmness of mind, 
which fatal circumstances have caused me to lose. With that in mind I 
have asked the good Cirelli, who has come here to see me, to betake 
himself at once to Turin, and if necessary also to Genoa, and have decided, 
considering the uncertainty and dangers of my situation, to sacrifice to the 
needs of the moment that little money I should have saved this year, so as 
to be able to devote myself again, in good health, to my art and the 
interests of my family, which I have so much at heart. Write to me mean- 
while if my resolution seems reasonable to you, and tell me frankly what 

you think My health is less than passable; nevertheless I am not failing 

to do my duty, and the public shows itself always benevolent towards me; 
I cannot but be satisfied, too, with Merelli. 

Lanari was not entirely pleased with these developments. Cirelli 
certainly showed himself a good friend to Giuseppina in time of need, 
but Lanari may have objected to another impresario taking it upon 
himself to negotiate for her in his place. We do not know what he 
wrote to Giuseppina about this, but he got a stinging reply: 

Dear Lanari, 

Your brusque letter received, which doesn't surprise me, most men 
being like that if they conceive the slightest suspicion that they are going 
to lose money ! Now I have learned to know the world, at my own expense ! 
Don't get upset, for as I told you the profits (considerable, indeed) you 
would have made out of me at Trieste and Genoa shall be repaid by me 
to the last farthing! In troubles, great or small, one should never reckon 
on the honeyed words and friendship of anyone whatsoever. In immense 
misfortunes, such as my own at present, there are only two courses to 
take — to end one's life as Nourrit did, or with a bullet in the brain, or to 
refuse to stoop to vileness on any account. Even if the postal expenses were 
also charged to you, friendship (as you say) has nothing to do with business, 
and so when the time comes you will only have to indicate where I must 
betake myself for Lent. Once again I exhort you to keep quite calm about 
your purse. I want nothing from you ! Farewell. 

Your friend, 

G. Strepponi. 

Bergamo, 4th September 1841. 



80 THE MAN VERDI 

Adolphe Nourrit, the tenor, had committed suicide by throwing 
himself over a balcony at Naples on 8th March 1839. This passage is 
eloquent but, like others in Giuseppina's early correspondence, not 
entirely logical or impeccably written. The effect of the letter is 
softened by a postscript : 

Marino Faliero was highly successful on Tuesday the 2nd : even more so 
than / Puritani, principally owing to Salvi (who at Bergamo seems a 
different person) and, if you will believe it, to me. Coletti and Valli sing 
very well, but the former doesn't seem to me to be particularly well suited 
to the part of Faliero. By that I don't think I do wrong to his notable 
talent. On Cirelli's return from Genoa and Turin I shall learn what agree- 
ments he has signed. 

Lanari then did something very generous, sending, or offering to 
send, a large sum of money. Giuseppina's reply still has a bitter note: 

Bergamo, 15th September 1841. 
Dear Lanari, 

Omitting for now all mention of the contents of your last letter, of 9th 
September, I shall omit also any discussion about the gift of 20,000 
Austrian lire, not wishing to decide if it is really meant as a gift or not. I 
have read and pondered over our contract and the result does not permit 
me to believe in this gift. No more on that subject. 

The performances at Bergamo come to an end this evening. I shall leave 
tomorrow for Trieste, to arrive on the 20th. From there I'll write to you 
at greater length. Now I 'm busy packing, and only have time to say farewell. 

Your friend, 

G. Strepponi. 

Judging from the amounts of bills of exchange mentioned in later 
letters, Giuseppina received the 20,000 Austrian lire, and it was 
regarded as a loan. The next letter is of great interest: 

Trieste, 25th September 1841. 
Dear Lanari, 

I reply to yours of 20th September. I forgot to tell you that I directed 
your letter to Giaccone and that he was most prompt in making payment. 
I arrived at Trieste by steamer on the 21st and I suffered greatly, as did 
everybody, for we had a very bad night. I know that you have leased me 
to La Scala for Lent, for five performances a week. I did ask you, if 
Merelli applied for such a lease, to let me know about it before closing the 
deal, but you too swim with the current, like many others. Patience ! Before 
closing this letter I shall perhaps be able to announce the settlement of the 
business with Giaccone for the autumn. I believe la Derancourt has 
definitely been engaged to take my place, at the time when the crisis will 
be upon me. If the agreements, both with Canzio and with Giaccone, are 
definitely settled, you will be forced to exclaim : ' What a tiger's heart ! ' when 
I tell you the terms. Poor Peppina! 

I have not said a word about your offer, in the last letter you wrote to 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 81 

me at Bergamo, to speak to the person a copy of a paragraph of whose 
letter you sent me. Dear Lanari, do you wish me to degrade myself still 
further with a man who has treated me worse than a beast? In spite of all 
the sacrifices, the burden of which he leaves me to bear alone, I shall 
certainly not. take any further foolish step, as in the past, in the vain hope 
of moving him to compassion and justice, if not towards me, towards the 
child for which he is responsible [verso chi da lui ripete la vita]. When the 
business with Giaccone is settled I shall go to Venice, because there I shall 
have better attention, and furthermore I shall be able to procure a better 
nurse for my child, as here they all take them into their houses, so as to be 
more sure of them, and that is something that would be impossible for me 
to do. I am being as economical as I can, because with the disbursements 
I shall have to make, I shall have a not inconsiderable deficit. I repeat: God 
is just and will have pity on me and on my family. In spite of so much 
suffering I don't wish the cause of it any evil. May God touch his heart, not 
for me, but for his son's sake. You say that when I am calm you will tell 
me of something that would suit me? I'm afraid that in that case you will 
have to wait a long time, for calmness seems a thousand miles distant 
from me. 
Give my regards to the Donzelli family, and to your own. Believe me, 

Your friend, 

GlUSEPPINA STREPPONI. 

I have written a letter breaking off all relations with the person you 
know about at Ancona. It was a step taken in the hope of support, but he 
did nothing except send good wishes in his letters, not putting himself out 
at all, even by way of compliment. But I am quite happy about that, 
because I couldn't ever have loved him truly, and even if he had been what 
we hoped he would be, I should have refused, for I should not have been 
happy with him. That between ourselves. Indeed, please burn this letter 
at once. I have come to an amicable agreement with Giaccone; today 
everything will be settled, with the sacrifice on my part of not less than 
3,500 Austrian fire, leaving me free from 10th November, the time when 
Signora Derancourt will commence her services. That's the sacrifice for 
Trieste alone ! ! ! ! Imagine what it will be for Genoa ! ! 

The postscript refers, clearly, to Count C, mentioned in the letter of 
20th August above. This admirer had evidently been picked up at 
Ancona in the previous April or May. 

The season at the Teatro Grande, Trieste, opened on 22nd Sep- 
tember, with Zampa, in which Giuseppina had no part. 1 She appeared 
only in Campana's Giulio d'Este, first performed on 6th October, 
with moderate success. Desiderata Derancourt made her debut in 
Roberto Devereux on 20th October — earlier than Giuseppina had 
anticipated. A miscellaneous programme consisting of the first act 
of Zampa, the first act, or prologue, of Lucrezia Borgia, a duet from 

1 Giuseppe Stefani, in Verdi e Trieste, p. 83, says she had 'a part of no great impor- 
tance' in Zampa. This seems to be based on a misunderstanding of a passage in G. C. 
Bottura's Storia aneddotica documentata del Teatro Comunale di Trieste (Trieste, 1885). 



82 THE MAN VERDI 

/ Normanni a Parigi and the third act of Roberto Devereux was put 
on for Giuseppina's benefit on 23rd October. This was designed to 
cause her as little strain as possible; apparently she sang only in the 
prologue of Lucrezia Borgia and in the duet. 

It is possible that the 'crisis' occurred earlier than she expected. 
The confinement may have taken place at Trieste and the following 
letter may have been written during convalescence, though this is not 
certain: 

Venice, 27th November 1841. 
Dear Lanari, 

I have been at Venice for some days, in a passable state of health. 
Cirelli has shown me your letter of the 17th addressed to him; then 
yesterday I received your two letters, through Signor Coin. Thank you for 
your offers, but I need nothing at the moment. To the person who 
approaches me at Genoa, to collect the money due to you, over and above 
the three months' salary due to me (let me know who it is), I will disburse 
the full sum of my debt. As I shall not be going there until towards the end 
of next month you can wait for the repayment of the first quarter's salary 
until that time. As for your answer to my request to be free, including the 
month I remain with you, to lend my services after Vienna, my friend Berti 
will write to you, and I flatter myself that you will feel like being obliging. 
Camillino is beginning to get on his feet — he seems quite recovered. Cirelli 
sends his regards and I remain, 

Your friend, 

G. Strepponi. 

We do not know where Giuseppina's family lived during these years 
— whether they had stayed at Trieste after Feliciano Strepponi's 
death, or returned to Lodi, or gone elsewhere. Carnillino would 
seem to have been at Venice when the above letter was written; 
perhaps Giuseppina's mother had come to look after her during her 
confinement, and had brought Carnillino with her. 

Just before Christmas, the mother now of two children, Giuseppina 
was for a few days at Milan, where arrangements were concluded for 
her appearance in Belisario and Nabucco during the Lent season at 
La Scala. After that she was engaged for Vienna in the spring. Her 
contract with Lanari expired at the end of August; he wished to 
employ her during that month at Lucca; she hoped to be released 
from this obligation, and intended to be more her own mistress in 
the future. 

She arrived at Genoa on 2nd January, and appeared first at the 
Teatro Carlo Felice on 18th January, in Pacini's Sqffb. During the 
earlier part of the season her place had been taken by Clara Novello, 
who had a benefit performance on 23rd January. // Figaro reported : 

To honour the artist there was no lack of verses and flowers, and 
outstanding among the latter a wreath laid at the feet of her celebrated 




Bartolomeo Merelli 



MERELL1, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 83 

companion by the excellent Giuseppina Strepponi, this poet of Lesbos 
returned to life, who in the three first performances of Saffo has already 
aroused the audience to delirious enthusiasm. We wished to draw attention 
to this as an uncommon example of a generous spirit which redounds to 
the special glory of both singers and shows how a base thought has no place 
in minds truly sublime like those of la Strepponi and la Novello. 

Giuseppina's letters show her again in high spirits, ready with 
pungent remarks about friends and colleagues. She says nothing 
about Clara Novello, but has this about Verdi's future Lady Macbeth, 
who was notoriously ill-favoured: 'I have heard la Barbieri's name 
announced, with the addition of Nini [Barbieri-Nini]. If she has 
found a husband no one need despair of finding one.' She mocks at 
the big nose and unfortunate love affairs of Pietro Romani, director 
of the orchestra at the Teatro della Pergola at Florence, but wishes 
she had him with her at Genoa, in Saffo: 'When he's dozing he is 
better than the others awake.' The next opera of the season was to be 
Mercadante's Giuramento, and to please the tenor Ivanoff it was 
proposed to add an extra duet from the same composer's Le due 
illustri rivali. The score of this duet was lent to Giuseppina by 
Lanari. But, after all, it was not made use of: 'The rehearsals began 
and the above-mentioned Ivanoff began: "I cut this", "I omit this 
other piece", "Such and such I don't sing", so that the first act 
became a monstrosity, without feet, hands or head — only a miserable 
trunk being left to us. The management, impresario and orchestral 
director opposed this butchery, and he was forced to sing 77 Giura- 
mento as Mercadante wrote it.' The opera was not a great success and 
had only three performances. Saffo continued to please: 'We are all 
called and recalled : my favourite pieces are the finale of the second 
act and the aria in the third act, after which I am called for five or six 
times. You know me, and know that I tell the truth, and nothing 
but the truth — something not too common, perhaps, among us 
women.' At the last performance of the season even the man who, in 
the last scene, represented Sappho leaping over the cliff, had to give 
an encore. Ivanoff got his way at a concert; he and Giuseppina sang 
a duet from Donizetti's Roberto Devereux and tacked on to it the 
cabaletta of the duet from Le due illustri rivali. 

Financial matters are discussed in these letters. When she had 
arrived at Genoa, Giuseppina had found a bill of exchange for 
13,160 francs awaiting her. She asked Lanari not to draw further bills 
beyond 8,500 francs, the amount of her salary at Genoa, during the 
Carnival season, but promised to repay the balance of her debt at 
Milan. The exact arrangements made are not clear. A letter of 28th 
January includes this passage: 

Regarding the bill of exchange for 5,340 francs that you have to draw 
at Genoa, if you want it all together please wait a few days longer; if 

D 



84 THE MAN VERDI 

you'll take it in two instalments you can send a bill at once for 4,000 
francs. I assure you that if you can release me from the engagement at 
Lucca you will please me very much, for then I should be able to put my 
finances in order a bit. Now (between ourselves) they are in disorder. 
Haven't you any news from Turin? Even the most just arrangement you 
made last year at Verona miscarried, and those 1,500 Austrian lire that are 
still outstanding would not cause me any annoyance just now! Enough — 
if you can send him a sharp reminder you would be doing me a service. 
They tell me that at Turin he doesn't arouse fanatical enthusiasm. I am 
angry with you because you haven't written me a single fine. You will be 
busy, to be sure, with God knows how many love affairs ! ! ! Lucky you, 
since now I am properly on the shelf 1 — but I'm better off so than with 
people like Mo .... near me. Goodbye, dear Lanari. My benefit night is 
the Saturday before Lent! I could do with a good money present from 
someone, as it's my benefit only in name! The Devil! The Devil! 

The next letter, written a few days later, tells among other things what 
had happened in the previous September, after C. of Ancona received 
his dismissal by post. This leads to some of the most revealing 
passages in the whole of this correspondence : 

Genoa, 3rd February 1842. 
Dear Lanari, 

I have received yours of the 31st, which gave me infinite pleasure. I 
await your orders concerning the bill of exchange. Now I would like, in 
all secrecy, to ask you something, and I'll tell you later on whom it's for. 
Don't be afraid for yourself, on my account, because even if it were for me, 
from the moment when you do me the favour of releasing me from Lucca, 
my contract with you ends in Vienna. That premised, tell me, as a man of 
outstanding experience in theatrical affairs and actions at law, whether the 
law grants release from a contract in circumstances such as these I lay 
before you : A singer, or ballerina, is asked in marriage by somebody who 
does not wish her to appear any more on the stage. When she's married, 
is she indisputably released from engagements contracted as a single 
person? It seems to me that she is, because the Church is concerned, and 
the law which gives the husband rights over his wife. Please give me an 
early reply, as I have promised somebody to consult you on this point. 

77 Giuramento, produced last night, was received neither coldly nor 
warmly, for the first two acts, apart from Costantini's aria; the third act 

pleased very much. . . . You ask what happened about C ? He came 

to Trieste in a fury, because they had written him an anonymous letter 
saying I was making love with Salvi (and, in parenthesis, I'll tell you that 
Salvi has always had, on me, the effect of mallow water 2 ). So then I 
undeceived him, but I was inflexible in the matter of . . . you understand ! I 
received him several times, always in someone's presence and with the doors 

1 This is the best equivalent I have been able to find for Giuseppina's 'poiche ora 
sono proprio all'asciutto'. She was 'stony broke' or 'positively cleaned out' in the 
matter of lovers. 

2 An emetic I 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 85 

open, so as not to increase the unpleasantness that such visits could cause 
me in the theatre. He was, to tell the truth, reasonable, and behaved with 
extreme delicacy — something for which I shall always be grateful and 
which has persuaded me still to keep up correspondence with him. I don't 

even know myself what will happen now. He has imputed that M 

is despicable and infamous, but in spite of all the misfortunes and money 
losses to which he has seen me subjected, he has pretended not to under- 
stand a thing — in this way he will certainly remit his patrimony in the most 
flourishing condition. I have never been in the habit of counting the costs, 
for which reason I have always been deceived and made a fool of, and for 
an inch of evil I have always had to do an ell of penitence. Let 's hope that 
it will soon be all over, since after Vienna there will never again come before 
my eyes that cadaverous face which turned my head. Listen — I feel myself 
strong, or, to put it better, indifferent, but if I suspected my constancy in 
that matter for one moment I would shut myself up among the nuns, 
guarded from sight, so as not to give him the satisfaction even of a glance. 
Farewell, dear Lanari. I have written badly because from my bed — you 
understand. Write to me soon about everything I have asked in this letter, 
and about Lucca. 

Love me and believe me, 

Your affectionate friend, 

GlUSEPPINA STREPPONI. 

There is one other letter dated by Giuseppina from Genoa, but the 
content shows that it was actually written at Milan. 

And now — what conclusions are to be drawn from the documen- 
tary evidence here presented? The first surely is that Merelli is 
entirely innocent of the charges brought against him by Gatti, 
Mercede Mundula and their followers. We have seen that he was 
probably responsible for engaging Giuseppina for Vienna in 1835, 
although he was not yet himself officially appointed impresario there. 
But certainly, in view of the long, unbroken series of engagements 
reported in the contemporary theatrical papers, she cannot have 
borne him a child as the result of anything that happened between 
them in Vienna. There is no real reason to suppose that anything did 
happen. After June 1835 she did not again come within his orbit until 
the spring of 1839. He would have liked to have included her in his 
company in 1838, but did not succeed in reaching agreement with 
Lanari in that year. Merelli's correspondence with Lanari, in so far 
as it concerns Giuseppina, is strictly confined to business matters, 
except for the one devastating remark in the letter of 16th January 
about a rumour, which proved to be not unfounded, that she was 
then five months gone with child. Merelli, the supposed lover of 
Giuseppina and supposed father of Camillino, has to ask Lanari for 
information on this point! Subsequent correspondence shows that 
Merelli was eager to secure her further services in 1839, but not very 
interested in 1840, when her voice was reported to have deteriorated. 



86 THE MAN VERDI 

But it is Giuseppina's own letters of 1841 which effectively dispose of 
any remaining possibility that Merelli may have been responsible for 
her troubles. In August 1841 she was at Bergamo under Merelli's 
direction. It is surely utterly impossible that after writing, in the letter 
of 8th August, 'I have found Merelli particularly kind', she could 
have been referring to him, later in the same letter, as ' the despicable 

M '. And Merelli was present at Bergamo, while this other 

person was not. Again, in the letter of 20th August, she talks about 
her deception, under the mantle of love, by someone who abandoned 
her, and then, later in the same letter, says : ' Merelli too is very much 
disposed to assist me.' And on 27th August she writes, 'I cannot but 
be satisfied, too, with Merelli', at a time when she was anything but 
satisfied with the mysterious M. 

But if Bartolomeo Merelli leaves the court without a stain on his 
character, who was the guilty party? 

From Giuseppina's letters we can postulate the following : 

1 His name began with ' M ', and probably had six other letters. 

It is doubtful whether, in emotional, hastily written private 
correspondence such as this, the number of dots following 
the initial can be expected always to represent the precise 
number of letters omitted. But it will probably bear some 
relation to the number of letters in the full name. ' M. of 
Verona' is given three dots; 'the despicable M. ' is given six 
dots, twice. Giuseppina would certainly have simplified 
things for her biographers if she had chosen to associate 
with people whose names did not all begin with the same 
letter. 

2 He was well known to Lanari, who had occasion to write to 

him and to see him, and through whom some arrangement 
to pay compensation had been made. 

3 He was a married man, the father of a family. 

4 He had a 'cadaverous' face. 

5 He was to have been together with Giuseppina in Vienna in 

the spring of 1842. 
The first point leaves out of consideration a passage from the letter 
of 28th January 1842, which if it refers to the same person gives us 
the first two letters of the name. These two letters are followed by 
what look like four dots; but carelessness, haste or a bad pen could 
be responsible for there being one dot less here than we might expect. 
Close examination of this passage leaves little doubt that it does refer 
to the same person: 

Haven't you any news from Turin? Even the most just arrangement you 
made last year at Verona miscarried, and those 1,500 Austrian lire that are 
still outstanding would not cause me any annoyance just now ! Enough — 
if you can send him a sharp reminder you would be doing me a service. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 87 

They tell me that at Turin he doesn't arouse fanatical enthusiasm. I am 
angry with you because you haven't written me a single line. You will be 
busy, to be sure, with God knows how many love-affairs ! ! ! Lucky you, 
since now I am properly on the shelf— but I'm better off so than with 
people like Mo .... near me. 

The mention of Verona in connection with the outstanding debt 
brings 'M. of Verona' again to mind. But he can be cleared of sus- 
picion at once, for he was a single man, whom Giuseppina at one 
time hoped to marry, and she had herself broken off relations with 
him early in 1840. No, this letter of 28th January 1841, refers to the 
same person as the letter of 8th August 1841 : 'If you have occasion 

to see the despicable M kindly remind him of the important 

sum of money that through your offices he agreed to pay.' It tells us 
that this agreement between Lanari and M about compensa- 
tion to be paid to Giuseppina had been made at Verona, and in 1841 
('last year'). Lanari had been in charge of the Carnival season at 
Verona from 26th December to 22nd February 1841, while Giusep- 
pina was singing for Jacovacci in Rome. From the sentences preceding 
and following those concerned with the Verona agreement it is clear 
that the person concerned was at Turin when this letter was written, 
and was almost certainly a singer. The whole passage reads logically 
and unfolds a consecutive train of thought, if we conclude that 
Mo . . . ., whose company for Giuseppina was dangerous and 

undesirable, was identical with M , who had wronged her 

earlier. If these arguments are acceptable, we now have the following 
additional pointers towards the identity of this man : 

6 The second letter of his name was 'o'. 

7 He was a singer, accustomed to arouse fanatical enthusiasm. 

8 He was at Verona, with Lanari during the Carnival season of 

1841. 

9 He was singing at Turin in January 1842, reputedly with less 

than his usual success. 

One other very important point arises from examination of this 
passage. If the agreement to pay damages was made at Verona in 
the Carnival season of 1841, this was before Giuseppina's second 
child was conceived, and thus the agreement concerned the first 
child. Both children, therefore, had the same father. 

It is impossible to pin-point the dates of birth of the children, or to 
say what slight variations from the normal gestation period may have 
occurred. If our calculations are approximately correct, however, we 
have two further clues to the identity of the father of Giuseppina's 
children : 

10 He must necessarily have been together with her at Bologna 

or Faenza, in May or June 1837 — nine months or so 
before the first child was born. 



88 THE MAN VERDI 

1 1 He must have been together with her either in Rome in late 
February, or at Florence in March or early April 1841 — 
nine months or so before the second child was born. As 
Giuseppina anticipated being able to go on singing up to 
10th November, it is highly probable that this second child 
was conceived at Florence rather than in Rome. 

We are in search, then, of a famous singer, with a name of six or 
seven letters, the first two of which were ' Mo ', a married man, the 
father of a family, with a cadaverous face, who had business relations 
with Lanari and who was at Bologna or Faenza in May or June 1837, 
at Verona during the Carnival season of 1841, at Florence in March 
or April of that year, at Turin in January 1842 — where he had less 
success than usual — and in Vienna in the spring of 1842. 

Who was it? There can be only one answer — Napoleone Moriani. 

The whole jig-saw puzzle fits together perfectly. Moriani's theatrical 
career, like Giuseppina's own, can be reconstructed from the con- 
temporary papers: he was at all those places, on those dates. The 
Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano on 5th February 1842, eight days after 
Giuseppina wrote, 'They tell me that at Turin he doesn't arouse 
fanatical enthusiasm', reprinted from the Messaggiere Torinese a 
report on the reception of Marino Faliero : ' Moriani . . . generally 
speaking, was well received, and la Tadolini also, but the duet they 
sang together was like Israele's aria: it didn't warm, it didn't freeze; 
the atmosphere was tepid, good for invalids.' That Moriani was 
married and had a family is shown by existing correspondence with 
his wife and by one of his letters to Lanari, dated 1st February 1837, 
in which he asks for the payment of some money owing to him 
because he was expecting to become a father again in that month. As 
for the cadaverous face, it can be seen today, in an oil painting in the 
Scala Museum at Milan. A white light shines on the forehead, the 
complexion is pallid, the shaven parts of the chin very blue and the 
cheeks markedly hollow. This is certainly a face that could be thought 
of as cadaverous even in broad daylight. How much more so, then, 
on the stage, as Giuseppina playing opposite him had so often seen 
it, in one of those dying roles for which he was famous, the corpse- 
like aspects of his features deliberately accentuated and underlined 
by make-up and theatrical fighting! They called him 'II tenore della 
bella morte'. Numerous contemporary notices remark on this 
mortuary speciality of Moriani's. A flowery-penned critic in La Fama 
in 1844, for instance, declared: 'The extinction of life is expressed by 
singing that has the tints, the shuddering, of death itself; it is like a 
trampled narcissus that bows its head, and in whose bosom the 
transient echo weeps and laments'. 

Counsel for the defence might bring forward Moriani's own letter 
to Lanari of 6th March 1840, with its references to the 'war ', recently 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 89 

concluded, between Giuseppina and Lanari, and to the ' nasty Lame 
Devil' who was upsetting her career with his bad advice and render- 
ing her 'so abject in the eyes of society'. Considered in isolation, this 
would seem to support the accepted story and indicate that someone 
else, and not Moriani himself, was responsible for Giuseppina's 
troubles. Less superficially examined, however, it can be seen to do 
nothing of the sort. It was written shortly after Giuseppina had 
quarrelled with Lanari and entered into a relationship which was to 
be short-lived, but which, at the time, she hoped would lead to 
matrimony with 'M. of Verona'. It is highly probable that Moriani 
was referring to this person, about whom he had heard from Lanari, 
because (1) Giuseppina could hardly have been continuing another 
relationship, at the time when she was consorting, with a view to 
matrimony, with *M. of Verona', and (2) she was certainly not 
receiving advice, bad or good, at this time from the father of her child. 
It was just because she had been abandoned that she clutched at the 
idea of marriage. Whatever the nature of Giuseppina's brief liaison 
with *M. of Verona', Moriani, it must be said, showed himself a 
pretty cool customer in referring to this relationship in the terms he 
did. In his view, apparently, it was less socially degrading to bear 
illegitimate children to a famous tenor than to associate, with a view 
to matrimony, with an obscure and probably lame admirer. 

Some comment is necessary on Rodolfo Paoli's article ' La prima 
maniera della Peppina' in La Scala for February and March 1954, 
in which extracts from Giuseppina's letters to Lanari, more extensive 
than those published by Eugenio Gara in the Corriere della Sera for 
27th January 1951, were made available to Italian readers. Both Gara 
and Paoli read these letters without realizing that they destroy the 
whole basis of the story of the relations between Giuseppina and 
Bartolomeo Merelli. Paoli quotes most of the interesting passages, 
but still identifies 'the despicable M.' with Merelli. This he is able to 
do only by omitting, or passing over without comment, the favourable 
references to Merelli in the same letters, which make this identification 
impossible. And when he comes to the passage in which Giuseppina 
gives the first two letters of the name, he simply omits the second 
letter! The text throughout is often inaccurately transcribed, and 
several names are misread ('Monzi' for Ronzi, 'Gianone' for 
Giaccone). But quite the most astonishing thing about Paoli's article 
is his failure to see that Giuseppina's second child was born towards 
the end of 1841. When she refers to her approaching confinement — 
'the time when the crisis will be upon me' — Paoli comments: 'There 
draws near what la Strepponi in these letters often calls the "crisis", 
i.e. that oscillation and decline of her health and her voice. . . .' 
The word 'crisis' actually occurs only once in all these letters. Paoli 
refers to Luzio's article in Nuova Antologia, but he cannot have read 



90 THE MAN VERDI 

it very carefully or he would have known that Camillino's name is not 
a new discovery. He tries to settle the date of Camillino's birth by 
working back from the remarks, in the letter to Lanari of 27th 
November 1841, that 'Camillino is beginning to get on his feet — he 
seems quite recovered', taking this to mean that the child was just 
then beginning to walk, and was thus between ten and fourteen 
months old. But the phrase in question {Camillino comincia a reggersi 
in piedi) could be used, equally fittingly, in the case of an old man of 
ninety 'beginning to get on his feet' after an illness. Here it is defini- 
tely connected with recovery from an illness. Paoli also thinks the 
wet-nurse was required for Camillino, and that he may have been 
born at Bergamo (probably on the basis of a wrong date, the letter of 
8th August 1841 from Bergamo being misdated 8th April). The 
article is highly misleading and would be better forgotten, along with 
the whole untrue story of Giuseppina's relationship with Merelli. 
Unfortunately this story has recently been given a new lease of fife 
by Abbiati, in a monstrously inflated version, including passages 
from Giuseppina's letters to Lanari in Paoli's transcriptions. Moriani's 
name crops up here and there, with the suggestion that he was 
Giuseppina's lover, but there is no argument about this. The main 
theme is still her seduction by Merelli. Abbiati, like Gara and Paoli 
before him, fails to interpret correctly the letters to Lanari. 1 

In the State Archives at Milan is a letter from Giuseppina to 
Merelli, dated 28th March 1839, which supports the conclusions of 
this chapter. It concerns her engagement at Milan and the terms on 
which she would agree to appear in Lucia. It is polite and rather 
formal (she uses 'voi' in addressing him, as against the 'tu' of the 
letters to Lanari) — not at all in the style of a mistress or ex-mistress. 

If, as reported by Gatti, Verdi pointed Giuseppina out in the 
theatre to his sister-in-law, and mentioned her supposed relations 
with Merelli and the child she was said to have had by him, he was 
passing on a rumour that was without foundation. 2 There has never 
been any lack of rumours, true and false, about the love affairs of 

1 1 am sorry not to be able to approve of Dr Paoli's article, since it was he who, at 
my request and in exchange for a microfilm of music by Galuppi, procured for me a 
microfilm of Giuseppina's letters at Florence. In sending it Dr Paoli asked if I would 
mind if he wrote himself about the letters. I could have no possible objection. Hence 
Paoli's article in La Scala, Abbiati's periodical, and hence Paoli's transcriptions in 
Abbiati's biography. . . . Moriani's name occurs in Abbiati's version of the story as a 
result of correspondence with me in 1955. I have since presented the microfilm to the 
archives of Sant' Agata, together with accurate transcriptions of all the letters. 

2 Verdi's reported remark to Marianna Barezzi does not seem to have appeared in 
print before Gatti' s biography. It was probably given him by Signora Carolina Prayer- 
Galletti, daughter of Barezzi's younger son Demetrio. In the preface to the first edition 
of his biography, Gatti says: 'Signora Carolina Barezzi related to me other episodes of 
the Maestro's life, which I faithfully transcribed. ' A family tradition, re-emerging after 
nearly a hundred years, is to be accepted only with the utmost reserve. Elsewhere we 
find wholly unacceptable stories, disproved by the documents, related on the authority 
of the son of Giovannino Barezzi ('Ricordi Verdiani', by ' Alfio', in // Presente, 30th 
Aug.-lst Sept. 1913). 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 91 

great singers. Gatti's story has also been made the basis of a film, in 
which Barezzi seeks an interview with Giuseppina, discloses his 
knowledge of her past and the child of which Merelli is the father and 
forces her to renounce Verdi, which she does by pretending to have 
been merely playing with his affections. Verdi and Giuseppina are 
brought together again after some years by the dying Donizetti. It 
makes a good story, sympathetically presented, and the characters in 
this film are not falsified. Great liberties are taken, however, with 
chronology and with the facts, and now the basis of this older story 
has been destroyed. 

The new story is different, but not less interesting. Giuseppina, 
whose youthful charm and gaiety shine still, after more than a 
century, from the files of the theatrical periodicals and the corre- 
spondence of the impresarios who employed her, rises rapidly to 
fame, although overworking herself in the interests of the family she 
supports, and, after a little more than two years on the stage, encounters 
the celebrated tenor at Bologna in April 1837. She is fascinated, and 
there develops between them, at Bologna and Faenza, one of those 
free associations, common in the history of the stage of this and other 
times, as a result of which Camillino is conceived and, about February 
1838, born. Lanari brings both artists together again in Rome in 
April 1838. Their triumphs, together with Ronconi, particularly in 
Lucia di Lammermoor, are repeated at Florence. Before they separate 
in July another child is conceived, this pregnancy being terminated, 
however, by a miscarriage in February 1839. They appear together 
again at Venice, Milan, Sinigaglia and Lucca. After their next 
separation Giuseppina, realizing now Lhe futility of this relationship, 
tries to break away from it, hoping for a short time for marriage with 
'M. of Verona'. Soon she herself dismisses this admirer. Already there 
are signs that her voice is deteriorating. During the Carnival season 
of 1841 at Verona Lanari persuades Moriani to do something to make 
amends to Giuseppina; a sum in compensation is agreed upon; part 
is paid, part left outstanding. After this Lanari is able to bring them 
together again on the stage at Florence in March. Relations are 
renewed, and Giuseppina conceives another child born, in November 
or December, at Trieste or Venice. Lanari tries in vain to get Moriani 
to pay the remainder of the money owing, and probably something 
more for the second child. Giuseppina is finally disillusioned. 'I 
feel myself strong, or, to put it better, indifferent, but if I suspected 
my constancy in that matter for one moment I would shut myself up 
among the nuns, guarded from sight, so as not to give him the 
satisfaction even of a glance.' She had clearly loved him desperately 
in the past. 

A catastrophic breakdown at Milan early in 1842 was at any rate 
to save her from the possibility of a renewal of relations with Moriani 



92 THE MAN VERDI 

in Vienna in the spring. And here we can resume the documented 
narrative of her theatrical career. 

The season at Genoa ended with a concert on 13th February 1842, 
and three days later Giuseppina arrived at Milan for the rehearsals 
of Belisario. Here is what Gatti says about her appearance in this 
opera: 1 

La Strepponi presents herself again to the audience of La Scala on 
22nd February in Belisario by Donizetti, who, everybody says, is particu- 
larly fond of her, and she is warmly applauded, praised, adulated, envied. 

How very far removed from the truth this is, is shown by what 
Donizetti himself wrote about her at the time. In a letter of 4th 
March — five days before the first performance of Nabucco — he sends 
his brother-in-law a message for a Roman impresario : 

Tell him that this singer created such a furore here in Belisario that she 
was the only one who never received any applause, that her Verdi did not 
want her in his own opera and the management imposed her on him. 

This is startlingly at variance with the accepted story. The truth is 
that the strain of years of continuous overwork, interrupted only by 
pregnancies, had now begun to tell and was to lead, during the 
production of Verdi's opera, to loss of voice and almost complete 
collapse. Everything that the biographers, from Monaldi in 1899 
onwards, have to say about Giuseppina's enormous success in 
Nabucco is false. Nabucco triumphed indeed, but almost in spite of 
the original Abigaille, who at Milan was by no means 'stupendous', 
'splendid' or 'fascinating'. The 'contemporary criticism' cunningly 
inserted by Monaldi in his description of the success of Nabucco, and 
copied from him by many later writers, has nothing to do with that 
opera; it is actually taken from the Venetian newspaper // Gondolier e 
of 11th November 1835 — more than six years earlier. The real con- 
temporary criticisms barely mention Giuseppina. G. Romani, 2 
writing in // Figaro, said 'The duet between Nabucco and Abigaille 
would doubtless have been more effective if the principal motive had 
been repeated less often, and if Ronconi had not been the only 
person to sing it.' Summing up at the end of the season, the same 
writer congratulated Verdi and the singers who had appeared in his 
work — 'Ronconi, Derivis, la Bellinzaghi, Miraglia, la Ruggeri, Rossi, 
Marconi and the chorus, male and female', that is, every single 
person in the cast except Giuseppina Strepponi! 

Mercede Mundula, the only writer until recently to comment at all 
on this situation, tries feebly to prove malice on the part of the critic 

1 Second edition, p. 155; more briefly in the first edition, I, p. 183. 

2 Not Felice Romani, as Abbiati (I, pp. 415-17) believes. Abbiati builds a fantasy 
about Verdi's relations with Romani on this false foundation. 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 93 

and 'indisposition on the first night' on Giuseppina's. But there is no 
arguing against the evidence of Giuseppina's own letters and the 
medical certificates : 

Milan, 14th March 1842. 
Dear Lanari, 

Merelli and Villa will have warned you about my present state of health. 
The very newspapers have written extensively about it. Merelli, surprised 
by my situation, came to ask me what I intended to do about the spring 
season in Vienna. My condition answered for me. He declared without 
preamble that it was necessary for him to cover himself against complaints 
from the powers that be in Vienna, and that he therefore intended, with 
the approval of the director general, to summon a medical commission, 
composed of the head doctor and surgeon of the province and the doctor 
in charge of the case who, on due consideration and after suitable investiga- 
tions, would pronounce judgment on my condition. 

Such a consultation took place a few days ago and, when the examina- 
tion was over, they declared unanimously that I shall die of consumption 
if I don't immediately abandon my profession. This you can verify when 
you like from the authentic certificates, furnished with official signatures, 
which were formally delivered to me yesterday. 

Now I am bound to obey this order, which deprives me and my unfor- 
tunate family of support, but God willing I shall at least preserve my life. 

So much I thought well to tell you, imparting such unpleasant news, 
which I am sure will distress you, as it fills with bitterness 

Your friend, 

GlUSEPPINA STREPPONI. 

A copy of the report of the medical commission is among Lanari's 
papers : 

The undersigned went today to Cirelli's studio, Piazzale del Teatro 
Filodrammatico, with the object of visiting in consultation Signora 
Giuseppina Strepponi, leading singer of the Imperial and Royal Teatro 
alia Scala. 

Signor Dr Moro, among the undersigned, doctor in charge of the case, 
discoursing for better information on the antecedent circumstances, 
pointed out that as far back as the spring of 1839, when she was singing 
at the said theatre, Signora Strepponi was subject to derangements of the 
respiratory passages and the gastro-enteric canal such as to render neces- 
sary several bleedings and the application of leeches to the trachea. Owing 
to this she was granted several days' rest by the management of the 
Imperial and Royal Theatres, after a report from Signor Moro himself. 
Some time after she left Milan the said disturbances, owing to the strain 
of singing, became more serious and she was noticeably losing weight, so 
that she obtained from the impresario to whom she was bound two 
months' leave, during which time she returned to Milan and put herself 
in the hands of the same doctor. Rest, abstinence from singing, an easy 
life and suitable treatment improved her health, so that she was able to 



94 THE MAN VERDI 

appear again with honour on the stage. On her return to the Royal Teatro 
alia Scala in the current Lent season, her once beautiful and sonorous 
voice was found — also by the public — to be weak, veiled and insufficient, 
even when emitted with extraordinary effort. Called therefore today in 
regular consultation the undersigned established what follows: 

The said Signora Strepponi has a very delicate constitution, and her loss 
of weight has become very considerable. Furthermore she is tormented 
by frequent coughing, with an unpleasant feeling of irritation all along the 
trachea and the larynx, which, she says, often becomes a burning sensation, 
especially after the effort of singing. Her pulse is weak and rapid ; in brief, 
she shows symptoms of light feverish reaction, with loss of appetite and 
appreciable prostration. In view of all that was established the undersigned 
doctors unanimously declared Signora Strepponi to be affected with such 
laryngo-tracheal inflammation as will lead to consumption unless she at 
once ceases to exercise her profession and submits herself to similar careful 
treatment and an uninterruptedly tranquil way of life. 

Dr Stefano Moro, 
Principal Doctor to the Imperial and Royal Theatres. 
Dr Alessandro Vandoni, 
Imperial and Royal Provincial Doctor. 
Dr Gaetano Ciceri, 
Milan, 3rd March 1842. Imperial and Royal Provincial Surgeon. 

This document refers, of course, in the second paragraph, to the 
trouble during the Carnival season of 1840 at Verona, as well as to 
the earlier indisposition at Milan, mentioned by Merelli in a letter to 
Lanari, already quoted. 

On the strength of the report of the medical commission Merelli 
wished to bring in a substitute singer immediately, but Giuseppina, 
whose financial situation was becoming desperate, insisted on 
completing the season. 'I therefore sang, or rather dragged myself, 
to the end of the performances, ' she told Lanari. She appeared in all 
in eight performances of Nabucco. The opera was to be revived in the 
following autumn, with Teresa De Giuli as Abigaille, when it had 
fifty-seven more performances, breaking all records for La Scala. 

Lanari also stood to lose money through Giuseppina's involuntary 
defection and seems to have reproached her. She explained in a 
letter of 23rd March that she had done all she could, fulfilling the 
Milanese part of the contract with Merelli, but to go on to Vienna 
was impossible: 

The doctors' certificate speaks clearly enough, and I am losing much 
more than you. I have lost my health. I am earning nothing. Doctors, 
medicines and food for myself and my family are using up the little money 
I had. So you see you are wrong to complain and upset me. I am very 
displeased not to be able to go to Vienna, where besides my salary I was 
to have had a benefit performance with half the receipts, and not much 



MERELLI, STREPPONI AND MORIANI 95 

hard work. I shouldn't be so crazy as to stay here at Milan eating up my 
capital if I had not been forced to do so on account of my health. We must 
resign ourselves to fate — with the difference that you are a fine gentleman, 
and I only a poor devil. 

She had another engagement to sing for Lanari at Lucca, after 
Vienna, and the terms of her agreement compelled her to make good 
any time lost by illness. She appealed to Lanari to release her from 
this contract, and probably he did so. She was also playing again, 
not very hopefully, with the idea of marriage. Yet another person, it 
seems, was willing to consider this. On 26th March she told Lanari : 

There is, too, a distant prospect of matrimony with someone not very 
rich, who would have to take on himself the burden of my family, large 
and small, a complete stranger to theatrical affairs, who wouldn't want to 
marry me (if at all) unless I had first brought to an end my obligations to 
you. The probability, or rather almost certainty, is that this marriage won't 
come off. But in any case I must set my mind at rest, and speak quite 
openly to you. You know my circumstances — more than anyone else you 
know what a family I have, entirely dependent upon me. The sacrifices I 
have had to make, through unpleasant vicissitudes that are known to you, 
especially in the past two seasons at Trieste and Genoa, have forced me to 
exhaust almost entirely the small savings I had. Add the expenses I have 
now, when I 'm not earning a farthing, and you will have some idea of my 
actual situation. So without preamble, and as Villa suggests, come to a 
friendly settlement with me. Have in mind the mother of two children and 
all the rest of the family — put yourself in my position and decide as your 
heart dictates. If I am able to resume my career and revive the fine days of 
the past, there will be no lack of opportunity, later on, to show you my 
gratitude. 

This was the lowest ebb of her fortunes. The moment that brought 
Verdi his first great triumph saw Giuseppina reduced almost to 
despair. 



CHAPTER 



Donizetti, Verdi and 
Giuseppina Appiani 



o 



N 18th December 1941 there appeared in the Venetian news- 
paper II Gazzettino an article by R. L. Caro with the interrogative 
title: 'Verdi rivale di Donizetti?' The rivalry suggested was only to 
a lesser degree that of the two as musicians; they were portrayed 
principally as the successive admirers, and objects of admiration, of 
a Milanese lady, Giuseppina Appiani, nee Strigelli. 

The material of Caro's article was all taken from Gatti's biography. 
No one could describe that work as sensation-seeking, but it did 
happen that here, as in dealing with the much-discussed later question 
of Verdi's relations with Teresa Stolz, Gatti took a strong line. In the 
reasonable conviction that the composer must have had love affairs, 
he was determined to reveal them, although the surviving evidence is 
scanty indeed. And so, in the midst of an admirably assembled eleven 
hundred pages of facts, we come across occasional unwarrantable 
assumptions and fanciful interpretations of enigmatic documents, all 
the more deplorable because they are almost indistinguishable from 
the surrounding factual matter. We have seen in the last chapter that 
Gatti sometimes took over, from earlier writers or from hearsay, 
stories that can be shown to be untrue. 

Where the existing documents present no clear case, psychology 
and imagination must be called in to supplement them by any 
biographer. The operation, however, is dangerous. The psychological 
probe needs delicate handling. The scalpel of the imagination, unless 
employed with something akin to genius, is capable of inflicting 

96 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 97 

fearsome mutilations. However skilfully the biographer goes to work, 
such conclusions as are arrived at by deduction and manipulation of 
unsatisfactory and incomplete evidence are apt to survive only for a 
time. New documents generally turn up, sooner or later, which 
destroy the foundations of the older speculations and make a fresh 
beginning necessary. The publication of Guido Zavadini's Donizetti: 
Vita, Musiche, Epistolario (Bergamo, 1948) has enormously simplified 
research concerning this composer and invites re-examination of 
Verdi's and Donizetti's relations with Giuseppina Appiani. 1 

In 1837 the death of Donizetti's adored wife Virginia, aged only 
twenty-eight, turned the flowery world for him into a desert. Hence- 
forth, although feted and honoured almost everywhere, he was at 
heart a homeless wanderer, an intensely lonely man, seeking distrac- 
tion from despair. The principal recipient of his confidences was his 
brother-in-law Antonio Vasselli, his beloved ' Toto '. To him he wrote, 
six days after the tragedy: 

Toto, my Toto, let my sorrow find an echo in yours, for I have need 
of someone who understands me. I shall be eternally unhappy. Don't 
repulse me, remember that we are alone on the earth. O Toto, Toto, write 
to me for pity's sake, for the love of your 

Gaetano. 

A week later: 

Forgive me, my Toto, but I am not yet able to tell you how and when 
I lost so much. I still believe I am dreaming, still the fatal door is shut and 
still I dare not remain alone. The distress I feel on your account is equal to 
my own; but believe it, my Toto, I spared nothing — masses, vows, three 
doctors, the midwife . . . 

This morning I gave away the new cradle that should have served. . . . 
Everything, I have lost everything! Without father, without mother, with- 
out wife, without children ... for whom do I go on working? And why? 
Oh, my Toto, come to me — I beg you on my knees — come in October. 

Perhaps you will be of comfort to me — and I to you. . . . The house was 
for her, the carriage was for her — she did not even try it — Oh God, God ! 
My Toto, write to me and forgive me if I am more importunate now than 
usual. You alone remain to me. I shall be unhappy until she intercedes 
with God for my death and our eternal reunion. 

21st September 1837: 

Must I tell you? I seem to be waiting for her — it seems that she must 
return . . . that she is in Rome. I weep for her still as on the first day. 

17th March 1838: 

1 cannot write or speak of her without shedding tears — always, always, 
always. Yesterday I had masses said for her. 

1 Additional material is still coming to light, even after Zavadini's fifteen years of 
patient research. A supplementary volume of letters is in preparation. 



98 THE MAN VERDI 

3rd August 1842: 

I am still feeling the effects of a day most desolate for me, and your last 
letter increases my sadness. It doesn't matter. I shall try to distract myself, 
if I can. 

And: 

Why do you talk of other women? Oh, laugh away, and believe me that 
I weep still as on the first day. . . . 

Against this background the rest of Donizetti's life and activities 
must be judged. 

There can be few more searching tests of character than the 
publication of a collected edition of any man's letters. Donizetti, 
subjected to this ordeal by Guido Zavadini — who deserves the 
highest praise for his scrupulous editing — emerges from it creditably. 
Weaknesses are apparent, but so are outstanding virtues, such as his 
lifelong devotion to Mayr, his first teacher, his loyalty to family and 
friends, his true and extraordinary modesty about his own works and, 
most striking of all, his wonderful generosity of mind towards rival 
composers — who were never treated by him as rivals. In particular, 
his attitude to Bellini compares very favourably with that of Bellini 
towards him. Whatever their comparative merits as composers, there 
can be no doubt that Donizetti was the more attractive character. In 
reading this correspondence, however, one cannot fail to remark as 
time goes on the increasing coarseness of language, particularly in 
the letters to Antonio Vasselli. Haifa dozen indecencies are monoto- 
nously repeated. It is the automatic, humourless swearing of the 
weary conscript soldier. Must the campaign go on for ever? Will 
peace never come? With these meaningless oaths Donizetti helps 
himself along the road that leads to the asylum at Ivry. 

For six months, from some time in September 1841 until early 
March 1842, the forty-four-year-old composer was at Milan. He was 
occupied first with the composition and then with the rehearsing of 
Maria Padilla, successfully produced at La Scala on 26th December. 
Then in the new year he was busy with the composition of Linda di 
Chamounix for Vienna. This opera was written while he was staying 
at Giuseppina Appiani's house, as several letters show. The fact that 
he never mentions Maria Padilla as having been written under her 
roof suggests that only during the latter part of his stay at Milan was 
he this lady's guest. During the early months of 1842 he became very 
friendly with her — according to Gatti and his followers, more than 
friendly. Although called to Bologna by Rossini, who wished him to 
conduct a performance of his Stabat Mater, Donizetti stayed on at 
Milan for the first performance of Verdi's Nabucco, on 9th March. 
His interest had been aroused at the rehearsals, and on the 6th he had 
written urging friends at Bergamo to attend at least one performance 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 99 

of the new opera. In the carriage that took him to Bologna, on the 
10th, he sat lost in thought, taking no part in his companions' 
conversation, while they heard him exclaim: 'Oh, that Nabuccol 
Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!' 

From Bologna Donizetti went to Vicenza and on to Vienna, where 
he arrived on 27th March. 

Meanwhile, the triumph of Nabucco had opened all doors to Verdi 
at Milan. 'He found himself suddenly beset by a crowd of friends who 
had need to tell him how much they had always loved him, what 
attention they had always given him, how they had anxiously followed 
his first steps. They had all known him, all protected him, all en- 
couraged him; all had done something for him, all had divined his 
genius, all had foretold his brilliant success. They all wanted to press 
his hand, to walk arm in arm with him, to address him as "Tu".' x 
He began to frequent the drawing-rooms of the Milanese aristocracy. 
In the autograph album of Sofia de' Medici, Marquess of Marignano, 
we find on pages 18-19 an entry in Donizetti's hand, the vocal part 
of a song, 'Io amo la mestizia', with the remark: 'Vous etes priee d'y 
faire l'accompagnement, ainsi nous serons deux auteurs.' The very 
next entry, after two blank pages, is by Verdi. On pages 22-4 is an 
otherwise unknown setting of an Italian translation of Goethe's 
Erster Verlust, dated 'Milan, 6th May 1842'. 2 From about the same 
period date the beginnings of Verdi's friendships with the Countess 
Clara Maffei, Emilia Morosini and Giuseppina Appiani. 

According to Gatti, Giuseppina Appiani, nee Strigelli, was the 
widow of a son of the painter Andrea Appiani. Her husband, who 
killed himself 'as a result of his disordered way of life', had left her 
with three gracious daughters. In the Borgo Monforte she held her 
salon, attended by the artistic bohemians of Milan. Donizetti, again 
according to Gatti, 3 

sends Mme Appiani letters from Vienna, in which his longing for his 
distant friend and nostalgia for his abandoned cosy corner are obvious, 
although he protests to his relatives that his friendship with Mme Appiani 
is an innocent one [sebbene protesti coi parenti che egli e V Appiani si 
conoscono ' candidamente']. One of these letters bears five consecutive 
dates, as if the composer did not wish to part with the sheet of paper to 
which he had confided his whole heart, that it might pass into loved 
hands. . . . Another letter, with the dates of the two following days (the 
correspondence is continued for precisely a week), ends thus : ' Remember 
your most affectionate Gaetano and love him as he loves you.' Mme 
Appiani sends him a pair of slippers she has herself embroidered, and asks 
him for news of the opera born in her house ; and Donizetti replies narrat- 
ing the success of Linda, just performed, and the mediocre state of his 

1 Michele Lessona, Volere e potere. 

2 See 'Goethe's Erster Verlust set to music by Verdi' {Music Review, Feb. 1948), 

3 First edition, I, pp. 209-10; second edition, pp. 164-5. 



100 THE MAN VERDI 

health, invoking her, in closest confidence : ' Help me, my Peppina ! ' But 
absence lays traps for the liveliest affections. Donizetti is not a model of 
constancy in his loves ... the lady, for her part, is changeable by nature. 
Verdi redoubles his visits to Mme Appiani, and the more he makes, the 
more she would like him to make. 

Before we follow this romance further it must be pointed out that 
Gatti has confused two different women with the same surname. 
On 3rd July 1843 Donizetti wrote to his brother-in-law: 

Signora Cristina Appiani is coming to Rome as governess to the 
children of the Prince of Compagnano. I knew her when she had a carriage 
and horses. Her husband's suicide, as a result of his disordered way of life, 
left her in a bad position, with two children to maintain and endless debts 
to pay. She is a woman adorable on every account, highly educated, most 
good-natured, unhappy but always amiable. I suggest you introduce her 
to your wife and family and treat her with all your customary kindness. 
Having known her in times of prosperity, it is extremely painful for me to 
see her reduced to earning bread for herself and her children. If you see her 
make a nice face at my portrait, do not suspect things ; ours is an innocent 
relationship [ci conosciamo candidamente], and she will do it because I 
have just lent her 300 Austrian lire for the journey. But don't mention that 
to her. In the good old days she was the friend of my friend Pedroni. 

The incomplete text of this letter appeared in Lettere inedite di G. 
Donizetti (Rome, 1892). G. Donati-Petteni reprinted it in his LIstituto 
musicale Gaetano Donizetti (Bergamo, 1928), and he was responsible 
for altering the christian name of the lady concerned, thus leading 
Gatti astray. Donizetti's subsequent correspondence makes it clear 
that Cristina Appiani in Rome and Giuseppina Appiani at Milan 
were two distinct persons. We are concerned with the latter. There 
exist nine letters to her from Donizetti, and fifteen letters and a few 
undated notes to her from Verdi are known. 1 Clearly we no longer 
have to believe that her husband killed himself 'as a result of his 
disordered way of life' and we no longer have to take into account a 
statement by Donizetti that their relationship was 'innocent'. 
Further information about her is given by Raffaello Barbiera 2 in 
discussing, in his romantic and picturesque way, the poet Giovanni 
Prati: 

His most fervent admirer is perhaps Giuseppina Appiani, nee Strigelli, 
of Milan, daughter-in-law of the celebrated painter Appiani and daughter 
of the State Councillor Antonio Strigelli, on whose death Prati wrote an 
epitaph in ottava rima. This lady, friend of the composers Donizetti and 
Bellini (who, while her guest in Via Monforte, composed suave melodies 
at a reading-desk that is still preserved), is distinguished for her beauty; 

1 Most of the originals were in the Museo del Risorgimento at Milan, and were 
destroyed in 1943. 

2 Ilsalotto delta Contessa Maffei (fourth edition, 1895), pp. 101-2. 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 101 

she passes for one of the loveliest women of Italy; and her charms [le sue 
forme], for which Hayez sighed, will be perfectly conserved, like those of 
Ninon de l'Enclos, up to her old age. 

Barbiera does not connect her name with Verdi's. 

It should be possible for the local historians of Milan to discover 
more about this lady. The sources of information, however, are by 
no means obvious, as is shown by the fact that even Gatti has con- 
fused her with someone else and in the past quarter of a century no 
one has ever noticed this. We should like to know how old she was at 
the time of the supposed rivalry of Donizetti and Verdi for her 
favours; what really happened to her husband; how many children 
she had and how old they were; what was her relationship to Prati 
and to Hayez; whether there was anyone else in the case; and how far 
Barbiera's comparison between her and Ninon de l'Enclos is to be 
pressed. If we knew all this we should be in a better position to 
interpret Donizetti's and Verdi's surviving letters. As it is, clues 
provided by these letters give grounds for supposing that Gatti has 
drawn wrong conclusions. 

Donizetti's letter concerning Cristina Appiani, mistakenly believed 
by Donati-Petteni and Gatti to refer to our Giuseppina Appiani, says 
that she was left with two children to maintain. Gatti, doubtless on 
the evidence of Donizetti's letters, says that Giuseppina was left with 
'three gracious daughters'. But this by no means exhausts the tale of 
her offspring. Donizetti always sends greetings to her ' dear and lovely 
daughters' and to her sons as well. A letter of 4th June 1842 names 
three daughters — Adele, Eugenia and Angiolina ('Angioleu'). 
Eugenia is mentioned in one of Verdi's letters, of 25th February 1854, 
from which it appears that she was a writer or composer; she was 
interested in a piece called Graziella, on which Verdi's opinion had 
been asked. A fourth daughter is referred to in a letter of Donizetti's 
of 9th March 1844: 'To the other daughter-mother whom I seldom 
had the pleasure of meeting, my homage.' This is perhaps the 
'mamina' to whom greetings are sent in a letter of 9th May 1842. The 
fourth daughter was evidently already married and a mother, so that 
Giuseppina by 1844, and possibly by 1842, was a grandmother. There 
seem to have been two sons, mentioned in nearly all the letters; in 
1844 one of them is referred to three times as 'the painter' and the 
other once as 'the wages devourer' and once as 'the architect'. The 
painter son was almost certainly Andrea Appiani the younger 
(1817-65), grandson, 1 according to the Enciclopedia Italiana, of 
Giuseppina's father-in-law, the more famous Andrea Appiani the 
elder (1754-1817). The Enciclopedia tells us that the younger Appiani 

1 'Nipote', which, of course, could also mean nephew. The dates make this improb- 
able. Thieme and Becker {Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Kunstler) make him the 
'Gross-neffe' of the elder Appiani. But the Italian for this would be 'pronipote'. 



102 THE MAN VERDI 

'studied at Milan under Hayez and in Rome under Minardi; painted 
historical and genre pictures and, in the church of Bolbeno in 
Trentino, frescoes on religious subjects'. A letter from Hayez to 
Giuseppina Appiani, 1 of April 1843, has a postscript: 'Kind regards 
to Andrea; I hope he will have done a lot of work — the days are long.' 
This seems almost conclusive. But one of Donizetti's letters to 
Antonio Vasselli, written at Milan on 4th March 1842, towards the 
end of his stay in Giuseppina Appiani's house, raises a problem: 

I received the box with the portraits, the stones and the prints, and have 
already gained good marks from the lady of the house and her daughters 
by the portraits. To the son of the above-mentioned lady I have given the 
prints (he is son of the painter Appiani and paints himself and was in 
Rome.) 

In the passage in brackets, is the word 'son' ('figlio') a slip for 
'grandson' ('nipote')? Was Donizetti himself mistaken about the 
relationship between these people? Or had Giuseppina' s husband, of 
whom we know nothing, also been a painter? Without some such 
supposition, we should have to conclude, from this letter, that she 
was not the daughter-in-law but the widow of the elder Andrea 
Appiani. And in that case, since he died in 1817 and had been 
paralysed for four years before, she would have to have given birth 
to all her six or more children by 1813 or thereabouts. This seems 
highly improbable. As it is, if we accept the statements of Barbiera 
and Gatti that Giuseppina was the daughter-in-law of the elder 
Appiani, it seems that one of her children was born as far back as 
1817. The second son is perhaps identifiable as the Carlo Appiani 
mentioned in a letter 2 from Giovanni Prati, the poet fervently 
admired by Giuseppina, to the Abate Bernardi, prefect of the 
ginnasio at Padua, in 1843: 

The young Dr Carlo Appiani is coming to Padua as assistant engineer 
at the railway station. 

Donizetti, however, in the following year calls him 'the architect'. In 
any case, the second son cannot have been much less than twenty 
years of age at this time. 

Such information as is available, then, about Giuseppina Appiani 
suggests that she was born about 1797 — supposing her to have been 
about twenty when her elder son was born. If it should be discovered 
that the younger Andrea Appiani was not her son, then the existence 
of the 'daughter-mother' in 1844, and possibly already in 1842, would 
still point to a date not very much later than 1797 for Giuseppina's 
birth. In fact the evidence suggests that at the time of the beginning 

1 In the Masini collection, Biblioteca Communale, Forli. 

2 Published by Carlo Giordano in Giovanni Prati: Studio biografico (Turin, 1907). 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 103 

of the supposed rivalry between Donizetti and Verdi she was a woman 
of about forty-five. She certainly had six children, some of them 
already adult, and was a grandmother by 1844, if not by 1842. All 
this does not of course make it impossible that she should have 
flirted first with Donizetti and then with Verdi, but it does make it 
seem rather more unlikely, even if her 'forme' were as well preserved 
as those of Ninon de l'Enclos. Even the three children Gatti grants 
her would be a handicap in adventures of this nature, let alone the 
six she had in reality. And then there was the grandchild; and Prati, 
a notoriously unfaithful husband, who was at Milan from 1841 to 
1843 — precisely at this time; and Hayez, sighing in the background 
(he must surely have painted her portrait at some time or other), 1 
and Mr Sandrini. 

Verdi, in a letter dated 26th December 1843, sends greetings to 
'Sandrini and all your fine family'. Donizetti in all his letters to 
Giuseppina Appiani sends greetings to this 'Signor', 'Monsieur' or 
'Mr' Sandrini, immediately after those to her daughters and sons. 
Hayez, in the letter mentioned above, does the same. Who was this 
Sandrini? A relative? An old friend of the family? He evidently lived 
with the Appianis. It seems at least possible that he was a more 
intimate friend of Giuseppina's than any of the others, that he 
occupied in her life the position, say, that Carlo Tenca occupied in 
that of the Countess Maffei. If this could be proved it would go a long 
way towards showing up what has been written about the relations 
of Donizetti and Verdi with Giuseppina Appiani for the nonsense it 
assuredly is. I put forward this suggestion about Sandrini with 
diffidence, as a possible line of further research. But I have seldom 
been more surprised in the course of my own delvings than when I 
looked up the epitaph that Prati is supposed to have written for 
Giuseppina Appiani's father. It is published by Barbiera, in an 
appendix to his Grandi e piccole memorie (Florence, 1910): 

There is an unpublished poem in ottava rima by Giovanni Prati, written 
for the tomb of the nobleman Antonio Strigelli, 2 magistrate at Milan, and 
relative of the painter Andrea Appiani. 

Savio consiglio d'incorrotta mente, 
Alma gentile in securta temprata, 
Nobil costume, che alia varia gente 
Dona del cor testimonianza ornata ; 

1 A list of Hayez's works, published with the posthumous Le mie memorie (Milan ; 
1890), includes a 'Portrait of a Lady' of 1835, commissioned or acquired by Giuseppina 
Appiani. But the 'Lady with the Veil' reproduced in La Scala for June 1953 is no? a 
portrait of her. 

2 Giuseppina Appiani's father, Count Antonio Strigelli, died on 17th February 1835. 
He was born at Milan in 1755. (Obituary notice in the Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano, 
10th March 1835.) 



104 THE MAN VERDI 

Rigido scudo d'onesta lucente, 
Iracondo de' vili alle peccata. 
Nol conoscete ancor? . . . V'6 detto assai: 
II nome in questi carmi io ne segnai. 

Barbiera has failed to notice that this poem is an acrostic on the name 
Sandrini. And with that I hand over this problem to the historians 
of Milan. 1 

We have seen something now of the background of Donizetti's life 
at this period, and something of Mme Appiani's circumstances. What 
about Verdi? The biographers have little to tell us about the post- 
Nabucco period; in fact, they generally content themselves with 
retailing two stale anecdotes about I Lombardi and one about 
Ernani. Letters are not plentiful from 1843 onwards, apart from the 
business correspondence with the management of the Teatro Fenice 
at Venice. From 1844 we have the invaluable correspondence of 
Verdi's pupil Muzio with their mutual benefactor Antonio Barezzi. 
But what is written about Verdi's private life in the years immediately 
following the triumph of Nabucco is based on surmise, deriving from 
a handful of surviving letters to ladies in Milanese society and a few 
passages of later reminiscence. The tone of some of these early letters 
is curiously un-Verdian. 'The Bear of Busseto' they called him, and 
he often used the phrase of himself; but the bear revealed here is very 
tame, standing on his hind legs and entertaining the ladies — or trying 
to. The letters are written on Bath paper, the fashionable stationery 
of the day, and employ, rather clumsily, the language of gallantry. 
They offer infinite possibilities of misinterpretation. 

In two letters from 1842, addressed to Emilia Morosini, 2 we find 
phrases like these: 'Remember that I am all tenderness; I die of 
tenderness,' and 'I am always tender, impassioned, ardent, half dead 
for you.' It would be foolish to conclude that Verdi was in love with 
this lady. She was, like Mme Appiani, his senior by a whole genera- 
tion and mother of a bevy of daughters, four of whom are named in 
these letters: 'What is Peppina doing? And my dear Bigettina? A 
kiss to the latter and nothing to the former. With Peppina I have 
large accounts to settle. She won't escape me.' — 'A thousand good 
wishes to that most kind, most amiable, most adorable Annetta; also 
to that naughty little Carolina; nothing to Peppina — I won't hear of 
it.' Peppina, one suspects, was Verdi's favourite. She was a charming, 
dark-ringletted girl of eighteen at this time. 3 While the family was in 

1 Carlo Tivaroni, on p. 478 of the first volume of his U Italia durante il dominio 
austriaco (Turin-Rome, 1892), names, among those condemned to exile in 1849 after 
the return of the Austrians to Milan, one Giuseppe Sandrini. Was this, perhaps, 
Giuseppina Appiani's friend? 

2 Published by Oberdorfer ('Carlo Graziani') in Giuseppe Verdi: Autobiografia dalle 
lettere. 

3 Oberdorfer reproduces her portrait (' about 1842'), together with one of her mother by 
Hayez. She lived until 1909 and Verdi corresponded with her up to the last month of his life. 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 105 

the country he wrote to her mother: 'The cruel one! While she 
wanders about on horseback, or donkeyback, with her thoughts in 
the third heaven, she perhaps never thinks of the wretched mortals 
who are in a state of desperation for her.' Annetta was rather older 
than Peppina and there was another daughter, not named in Verdi's 
correspondence, who was the eldest of all. 

Donizetti's letters from Vienna to Giuseppina Appiani also offer 
plentiful opportunities for misunderstandings, as he himself realized 
when he wrote at the end of one of them : ' Don't show anyone my 
letters, for people might take our jokes in earnest.' They are also very 
imprecisely dated — often with only the day of the month — and by 
taking them in the wrong order it is possible, as Gatti has shown, to 
make them suggest all sorts of things. Every one of them has now been 
precisely dated by Zavadini, by study of the postmarks and collation 
with the rest of Donizetti's correspondence. The first, written on 3rd 
April 1842, is a good-humoured, garrulous account of his journey 
and the performance of Mercadante's La Vest ale on the previous 
evening. It employs the 'voi' and the French 'vous', as do all these 
letters, and contains no warmer expressions than these: 'As for 
wanting me back at Milan, I believe you are the only one who does, 
and you know that one nut in a bag doesn't make any noise. Even 
your lovely daughters don't want me. But I'll punish them. Greet 
them for me. The sons as well.' And: 'Greetings to Mr Sandrini, and 
a thousand thanks! To you? Choose, or rather, guess!' He signs 
himself: 'The Lodger'. 

The next letter, dated '9 or 10' and postmarked 10th May, acknow- 
ledges receipt of the embroidered slippers: 'Oh, my gigantic feet! 
You were never so luxuriously wrapped up ! ' He sends thanks first 
of all to Giuseppina herself, for buying the material, then to the ' dear 
and lovely girls, who spent so many hours working for me, after I 
had annoyed them for months by repeating chords upon chords for 
hours on end ', and finally to Mr Sandrini, who seems to have been 
responsible for posting the slippers, or finding some other way of 
having them conveyed to Vienna. Gatti is thus wrong when he says 
that Giuseppina embroidered these slippers for Donizetti herself. 
Here is the conclusion of this letter : 

I have just finished the rehearsal of the first act. . . . Dear Lord, how 
many mistakes! Horrible! And to be compelled to be silent, and not be 
able to make myself understood ! I, who could have settled everything in 
four minutes, to stand there four hours for a little first act! What will 
happen to the rest? Oh! Pity me, Madame et Mesdemoiselles — and the 
children too. . . . Pity the poor harlequin. ... I am very tired. 

Farewell my lovely ones, my lovely one, my dear, dear ones, dear one 

Farewell Biondina; farewell lady, you who remind me of one who is no 
more. Farewell Crosspatch, even at the piano ; farewell Angioleu — farewell 



106 THE MAN VERDI 

male offspring. Farewell little mother, farewell sor Sandrin. I have heard 
now from General Vaccari that His Highness x will be at court this evening 
so we shall come to some agreement. 

Infamous weather — rain, wet and cold. Yesterday evening Donzelli 
in Otello reminded of better days. . . . Kisses to you all. Remember your 
affectionate Gaetano and love him as he loves you. 

Have we really to conclude that Donizetti was in love with Giusep- 
pina Appiani? It is clear that he had been happy in her household at 
Milan, and that there were ties of deep affection between him and his 
hostess and her sons and daughters. There was evidently some 
physical resemblance between Giuseppina and his lost Virginia, and 
he had remarked on this. She was of his own generation; he felt 
drawn to her. It is possible that an intimate relationship might have 
developed if circumstances had permitted. But the fact that he does 
not use the intimate forms of address suggests that this had not come 
about yet. And he was to see very little more of her. On 26th May he 
tells of the success of Linda and of his sore throat : 

I am drinking milk and hot water and sugar. It troubles me the more 
coming at such a time, as precisely this morning I have to begin rehearsals 
with the choir for the Stabat, to be performed on Tuesday evening without 
fail. How shall I get on this morning, without speaking, without shouting? 
Help me, my Peppina ! 

This is the context of Gatti's invocation 'in closest confidence'. 

On 4th June Donizetti has to announce that he has been approached 
about the possibility of his becoming court composer to the emperor. 
He will be leaving Vienna shortly but is still uncertain where to go. 
Business affairs call him to Paris and to Naples, but his heart calls 
him to Milan more than anywhere else : ' If I come to Milan will you 
put me up? Have you the room free for the poor coffee addict?' This 
letter is dated: 'Vienna, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8— Saturday, in short, 1842.' It 
bears the postmarks 'Vienna, 5th June' and 'Milan, 10th June'. 
Clearly Donizetti himself was not sure of the date and, equally 
clearly, the letter was actually written on Saturday, 4th June. Gatti's 
misunderstanding is patent : 

One of these letters bears five consecutive dates, as if the composer did 
not wish to part with the sheet of paper to which he had confided his whole 
heart. 

The other letter 'with the dates of the two following days' (actually 
'9 or 10') is the second of the series, already quoted, and Gatti's 
'week' stretches from 4th June backwards to 10th May. 
For just over a fortnight in July Donizetti was again Mme Appiani's 

1 Probably Metternich, who had to inquire whether the empress would accept the 
dedication of Linda. 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 107 

guest at Milan; a letter to a friend, dated 29th July, is written from 
her house, just prior to his departure for Naples. Only a few days 
later he was writing to his brother-in-law: 'Why do you talk of other 
women? Oh, laugh away, and believe me that I weep still as on the 
first day.' In September he asked Giovanni Ricordi to convey his 
regards and thanks to 'Sandrini and Signora Peppina Appiani and 
family'. 

Verdi has not yet appeared on the scene, so far as can be judged 
from the available documents. The earliest surviving dated or datable 
letters from him to Giuseppina Appiani are from December 1843. 
Some of the undated notes could also be from 1843. 

In all the dated letters there are only a few phrases that could be 
picked out as possibly implying more than they actually say. These 
have, needless to say, been picked out and made to imply a great deal. 
Without knowledge of the circumstances in which they were written 
and of the letters to which they reply it is not possible to decide what 
these few phrases really mean. But they can at least be put back into 
their contexts and seen in perspective. The whole correspondence is 
carried on in a tone of cordial but always respectful friendliness, and 
the lady is always addressed in the polite third person. This is so even 
in the series of undated notes that are supposed to represent their 
most intimate exchanges. 

Around these notes Gatti weaves an imaginative story. He begins 
by ante-dating one of Donizetti's letters by more than two years. He 
quotes an enigmatic passage about Troy having been destroyed by 
love, and the dust of that city having spread itself over Vienna, and 
asks: 'What does he mean to say? Does Donizetti begin to suspect 
the relations current between Mme Appiani and Verdi?' Zavadini 
dates the letter in question 18th June 1845 — certainly rightly, as 
comparison with letters on either side makes clear. 1 But Gatti is 
writing about 1843: 

That those relations are becoming continually closer does not escape 
Mme Appiani's friends, and one of them may have advised Donizetti who, 
disinclined to jealousy and rancour, passes shortly from scorn to joke. But 
Verdi is offended. Even in joke he won't endure interference in his affairs — 
especially in intimate ones. He likes to visit Mme Appiani's house; the 
courtesy and spirit of the hostess attract him. A few notes, scraps of Bath 
paper (the finest and most elegant of the day), sent by hand in a hurry, 
one after the other, some in the small hours of the morning, reveal his 
desire, his eagerness, for appointments far from indiscreet eyes. One of 
these notes says : ' Very well : I will go at three ; but it is necessary for me 
to know where I must go. Meanwhile, a thousand thanks. Write.' 

1 Reference to the bad effect of the Viennese climate on his nerves, as in the previous 
letter (7th June, to Antonio Dolci) ; reference to the failure of Merelli's Italian season, as 
in the following letter (29th June, to Gaetano Melzi); reference to his impending visit to 
Paris. 



108 THE MAN VERDI 

Certainly Mme Appiani knows of the friendship between Verdi and 
Giuseppina Strepponi and is not ignorant of the sympathy felt by the 
Maestro for Erminia Frezzolini : two women {honi soit qui mal y pense) 
are already too many and not even a third favourite can be happy about 
it. Some pointed remark, some pretension to get the upper hand of the 
others, provokes Verdi's rebellion: 'I am furious, desolated, but you must 
renounce the position of Sultana. I thank you none the less and press your 
hands.' 

Peace is soon restored : Mme Appiani seeks news of him, asking if he is 
ill. And Verdi replies: 'I am extremely well, and very soon indeed I am 
coming to hear the interrupted anecdotes of our common friends. 1 Good 
morning.' Then it is he who seeks out his lady friend and the cordial 
atmosphere of her house: 'Are these maccheroni to be eaten or not? I 
want to Neapolitanize myself at Milan.' 

Honi soit qui mal y pense, indeed! How does Gatti know that some 
of these poor little scraps of paper were penned ' in the small hours 
of the morning'? How does he know in what order they were written? 
Or that Verdi was eager for appointments 'far from indiscreet eyes'? 
Or how the curious remark about 'the position of Sultana' is to be 
interpreted? The reference to Giuseppina Strepponi is justified, since 
it is likely enough that she and Verdi had already become, at any 
rate, good friends. The idea that there was anything between Erminia 
Frezzolini and Verdi is based entirely on a passage in one of Muzio's 
letters to Antonio Barezzi, Verdi's father-in-law, from which we learn 
that Mme Frezzolini's husband Poggi had opened two of the com- 
poser's letters and kept them (November 1845). But the formal and 
reserved terms (quoted by Muzio) in which the lady complains that 
she has had no reply, and the fact that Verdi told her she should ask 
her husband for the missing letters, make it fairly clear that Poggi's 
suspicions were unjustified. 

By searching only a little further a fourth, a fifth, even a sixth 
beauty could have been added to the hypothetical harem. Was he not 
'dying of tenderness' for Emilia Morosini in 1842, and at the same 
time ' in a state of desperation ' about her daughter Peppina ? And does 
not Barbiera, the incurable romantic, tell us in his Passioni del 
Risorgimento that 'Giuseppe Verdi, in his youth, palpitated for Gina 
della Somaglia, and she returned, gratefully, the sweet affection of 
the great man, singing with passion the popular cavatinas of the 
hirsute, leonine Maestro'? 

At the beginning of December 1843 Verdi sent Mme Appiani the 
following note: 

Today I am more harassed than yesterday or the day before : tomorrow 
I leave for Venice. Ours is a troubled life, God knows. I 'm in such good 
health that I'm indignant about it. Before lunch I'll come to salute you. 
Good morning. Good morning. This fine sunshine annoys me. 
1 Sandrini? 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 109 

It would seem to have been written in tearing high spirits. But no! It 
reveals, we are told, 'how sorry he was to leave Milan'. And then he 
writes to her next time at one o'clock in the morning: 

Venice, 26th December 1843. 
One hour after midnight. 1 
You are impatient to hear news of / Lombardi and I send you the very 
latest: it's not a quarter of an hour since the curtain fell. / Lombardi was 
a grand fiasco : one of those fiascos that are truly classical. Everything was 
either disapproved or just tolerated, except the cabaletta of the vision. This 
is the simple truth ; I tell it to you without either pleasure or sorrow. I am 
in a hurry and must leave off, begging you to greet for me Sandrini and all 
your fine family. Always your most affectionate friend, 

G. Verdi. 

Verdi often sent such brief reports to his friends immediately after a 
performance had ended. In this case he wrote at the same time, in 
almost the same terms, to Luigi Toccagni, sending greetings to the 
Morosini family. 2 It is therefore absurd to attach significance to the 
fact that he wrote to Giuseppina Appiani at one o'clock in the 
morning. I confess I am unable to read as much into these letters as 
Gatti does. 

There is an interesting letter from Donizetti, at Vienna, dated 22nd 
January 1844. The whole of the first part (written in French) takes 
the form of an imaginary dialogue : 

Here we are. What do you mean : ' Here we are ' ? Yes, here we are. After 
such a long silence? It's owing to the long silence that I said: 'Here we 
are.' Brigand! Very well! Lazy man! Quite true! Ah! But tell me, don't 
these names annoy you? Not at all, madame, I am disposed to hear them 
all and to put up with everything from a friend. Not at all, I am your 
mortal enemy. I don't believe it. Someone told me that, but more politely, 
that is to say, that you breathe, palpitate only for Verdi, and your own 
letter betrays you. But I approve your passion; the more you love artists 
of high talent, the more I shall esteem you. I cannot be offended about it. 
My turn for sympathy is over; another must take my place. The world 
wants something fresh ; people have given place to us ; we must give place 
to others. I am all the happier to have given place to a man of talent like 
Verdi. Friendship fears the worst, but you can rest assured of the success 
of this young man. The Venetians will esteem him as the Milanese do, for 
the heart is the same everywhere. In any case, if his success does not answer 
the expectations of his friends, that will not prevent the good Verdi from 
occupying before very long one of the most honourable places in the ranks 
of composers. 

The rest of the letter contains nothing significant. It ends with the 
usual greeting to the dear girls, 'the painter' and Mr Sandrini. It is 

1 i.e. Actually written on the 27th. 

2 Carteggi verdiani, II, pp. 355-6. 



110 THE MAN VERDI 

evident that Giuseppina had been gravely concerned at Verdi's report 
on his Lombardi fiasco at Venice and had expressed her concern in a 
letter to Donizetti. She wrote to him again after the production of 
Linda at Milan on 2nd March, and Donizetti replied on 9th March: 

Your mysterious letter gave me the greatest pleasure. You speak of 
happiness, of the future, of philosophical reflections, etc., and I destroy all 
that with a word, which if I mistake not will certainly solve the riddle — 
it's all false. 

Keep therefore for others your reflections and advice, and you will do 
something very useful. In proof of this truth, I hope in the summer to 
confute these things myself and to repeat to you 'It's all false' at the top 
of my voice, indoors and in the garden. 

Thank you for the news you send of Linda, and for your remembrance 
of how and where it came into existence. 

To Gatti this is 'biting irony'. 1 Considered, however, in connection 
with the previous letter, which Gatti does not refer to or quote, it is 
surely to be read as nothing more than a piece of persiflage. Giusep- 
pina could evidently take a joke, and give as good as she got in 
return. It seems almost certain that she had hinted that he probably 
had a love affair on his hands in Vienna. 'It's all false' then makes 
sense, as it does not in Gatti's interpretation. This passage has 
nothing to do with Verdi. 

March 9th was also the date of the first performance of Ernani, and 
Donizetti assured his friend in the same letter that he hoped and 
believed that it would have the greatest success. 'You know me,' he 
wrote, ' and I believe it is not necessary to tell you that my good wishes 
are sincere.' He praised Verdi everywhere he went and after Ernani 
had triumphed at Venice, he passed from words to deeds, making 
known through Giacomo Pedroni, a mutual friend, that he was 
prepared to assist in any way possible to secure the success of the new 
opera in Vienna as well. Was this perhaps at the suggestion of 
Giuseppina Appiani? The one surviving letter from Verdi to Donizetti 
concerns this pleasing incident and rare example of a composer's 
going out of his way to help a rival. 

Milan, 18th May 1844. 
Honoured Maestro, 

It was a pleasant surprise for me to read your letter to Pedroni, in which 
you so kindly offer to help at the rehearsals of my Ernani. 

I have no hesitation at all in accepting, with the deepest gratitude, your 
courteous offer, certain that my music can only greatly gain if Donizetti 

1 First edition, I, p. 230; second edition, p. 182. Gatti's idea that the mode of address, 
' Pregiatissima Arnica', employed in this letter, indicates a more ceremonious attitude 
than the 'Cara Arnica',' Cara Donna Peppina' and 'Chere Madame' of earlier ones is 
hard to maintain in view of its use in the very first letter of all, written just after he had 
been staying in her house. 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 111 

deigns to give it his attention. Thus I can hope that the spirit of that work 
will be fully appreciated. 

I beg you to occupy yourself both with the general direction and with 

such minor adjustments as may be necessary, especially in Ferretti's part. 

To you, Sig. Cavaliere, I pay no compliments. You are one of those 

few men who have sovereign gifts and no need of individual praise. The 

favour you bestow on me is too great for you to doubt my gratitude. 

With profoundest esteem, 

Your humble servant, 

G. Verdi. 

Donizetti never ceased to admire Verdi and to wish Mm well. His 
chief object in watching over the production ofErnani in Vienna was, 
undoubtedly, to save the opera from the attentions of Nicolai, then 
first Kapellmeister at the Karntnertor theatre. Donizetti distrusted 
Nicolai, and knew that he hated Verdi. The situation was curious. 
Verdi had achieved success with a libretto that Nicolai had rejected, 
and Nicolai had suffered fiasco with an opera, // proscritto, on a 
libretto originally written for Verdi. 1 It was certainly to Nicolai and 
not to Donizetti, as Oberdorfer outrageously suggests, 2 that Verdi 
had referred in the previous year, in a letter to Emilia Morosini of 
12th April 1843, on his return from the first production of Nabucco 
in Vienna: 'It was a success, a greater success than I expected after 
having seen the intrigues of a certain person there.' Donizetti's 
generous intervention in 1844 was therefore most welcome. 

Verdi expected Donizetti to take over the entire direction of Ernani, 
but this was not possible. The following hitherto unknown letter of 
24th May 1844, 3 from Donizetti to Giuseppina Appiani, almost 
wholly concerned with Verdi's opera, makes this clear and shows how 
he indirectly controlled everything : 

Dear and Amiable Lady, 

Rest assured, between M. Pedroni and me there is no single secret that 
may not be revealed. So no more of that. And I'll begin at once by telling 
you that there is no news here that would be worth the trouble of narrating 
in secret or in public! 

The theatre languishes owing to the bad arrangements. They lost nine- 
teen days recently in rehearsing La gazza ladra, which nevertheless had 

1 Here, from Nicolai's diaries, are his opinions of the Nabucco libretto and of Verdi : 
''Nabucco, the new libretto by Temistocle Solera intended for Milan, was utterly 

impossible to set to music. I had to refuse it, convinced that an unending raging, blood- 
shedding, reviling, striking and murdering was no subject for me.' 

"The Italian opera-composer of today is Verdi. He has set to music the libretto 
Nabuccodonosor which I rejected, and made his fortune with it. But his operas are truly 
dreadful and utterly degrading for Italy. He scores like a lunatic, is no master from the 
technical standpoint, must have the heart of a donkey and is truly in my eyes a pitiable, 
contemptible composer.' 

2 Giuseppe Verdi (Milan, 1949), p. 70, where parts of this letter were published for 
the first time. 

3 In the Masini collection, Biblioteca Communale, Forli. 



112 THE MAN VERDI 

only a very moderate success. They are now wholly given over to Ernani', 
within a few days it should be performed (so they say, for you know I 
don't set foot in the theatre). 

The singers are very pleased with it ; there has only been (they tell me) one 
little cut made, of a kind of waltz in the third act, owing to the inadequacy 
of the brass band here — which Verdi, for the rest, knows very well. As 
far as singing is concerned, except for a note here and there altered to 
suit the means of the artists, everything will be performed in the best 
possible way. 

For the rest, Verdi has just written to me ; he had already sent a letter to 
a stage manager. This morning I sent for the musical director, and as he 
couldn't come, I sent him Verdi's own letter, and I gave orders for it to be 
shown to the singers, and if they have need of me, they have only to tell 
me so. But I know from the singers themselves that everything is going very 
well. I shall keep you informed. Meanwhile tell Verdi that I thank him for 
the confidence he has in me, and although invisible in the theatre, I have 
means of watching over everything. 

Who was it told you I have given up my trip to Italy? I very much hope 
it will take place. My father arrives on 5th June; then there will be a 
grand conference. 

A thousand greetings to the painter, the architect, the very dear 
daughters, to yourself, to Mr X. 1 1 am well, so I hope — I hope to embrace 
you soon. Meanwhile, think of him who truly loves you, and don't 
imagine mysteries where they don't exist. 

Your Lodger. 

Rubini is here. He sings this evening at Metternich's. Perhaps also one 
or two performances in the theatre! What do you say to that? La Elssler's 
benefit last night — called out twenty-three times; three dances encored; 
flowers, wreaths and 2,800 florins receipts, besides the season tickets. Last 
appearance tonight. Afterwards at Pesth. La Taglioni at Paris next month 
for the last time. Seven appearances. 

24th May. 

Donizetti was at Milan for a few days at the beginning of August 
1844, and for two days in the following November. He probably 
saw Mme Appiani then for the last time. In December he was back 
in Vienna; in July 1845 he went to Paris. Shortly after his arrival he 
fell ill and symptoms of mental alienation before long became 
apparent. He grew worse, and in February 1846 had to be put into 
an asylum. 

Meanwhile Verdi wrote occasionally to Giuseppina Appiani from 
Busseto, Bergamo, Naples and Venice. 

Gatti tells us: 'Mme Appiani writes to him, calling him "dearest" 
and employing affectionate expressions, though reproving him for 
leaving her without news, and she sends him, as she had already done 
for Donizetti (now incurably ill), a little intimate gift — a pair of 

1 Illegible. It looks like a capital letter from an unknown alphabet. Undoubtedly Mr. 
Sandrini is meant. 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 113 

braces.' This is deduced from Verdi's letter from Venice of 22nd 
December 1845, which includes a reference to Donizetti: 

No, I'm not 'dearest' at all. I don't pretend to it. I pretend to many 
things, but not to amiability or beauty. No, no, certainly not : I am nothing 
more or less than a blundering sort of person, and yet at bottom I 'm not 
so bad, and I think much of you and yours, although you, without really 
believing it, wish to reprove me for the contrary. I am extremely busy 
finishing Attila, because I should like to put it on about 28th January; I 
have also had to write a cavatina for la Loewe, which is her own property 
and which she will use for her entry in Giovanna d'Arco. I have not taken, 
nor am I taking, the rehearsals of this opera, which I yet love very much, 
but I should not have been able to stand up to the work and it would have 
been so many hours lost to Attila. I am very pleased with the latter and 
unless the devil brings us bad luck it should turn out very well. I have not 
received the braces. I hope I shall receive a long letter after Boxing Day, 
and I will write you one telling of the outcome of Giovanna, although I'm 
not going to hear it. Tell me about Pedroni and Madame Perey. If you 
can give me news of the sick man you will give me the best of presents : 
others would not believe me sincere, but you will. If I don't love Art for 
myself I am interested in it for his sake and for the sake of the prestige it 
brings our country. . . . Believe me the most affectionate of your most 
affectionate dear ones. 

The last sentence rather more than counterbalances the first. In the 
second edition of his Verdi biography Gatti adds the following 
commentary x on the latter part of this letter : 

The 'sick man' is Donizetti, irreparably broken in health, and the 
reference to Donizetti's art, the subject of this part of the letter, an art 
that he 'does not love', although this affirmation is in marked contrast to 
the praise that follows, may seem a not very persuasive justification of the 
tenacious spite manifested by Verdi for his predecessor in the favours of 
Mme Appiani. 

This is positively perverse. Nothing can justify the interpretation of 
the general expression 'Parte' (meaning, probably, the whole world 
of the theatre which had already become abhorrent to him) as a 
particular reference to Donizetti's art. There is not the slightest trace 
of envy or spite in Verdi's relations with Donizetti. 

Other letters followed from London and Paris in 1847 and 1848. 
One written on 22nd August 1847, gives an account of Donizetti's 
condition. Verdi had not been to see him in the asylum, having been 
advised not to do so, but he intended, if the opportunity presented 
itself, to pay a secret visit. He had been told that the sick man 
appeared well physically, except that his head was constantly bent 
forward on his chest and his eyes closed. He was eating and sleeping 
well, but hardly ever spoke a word. If he were more animated, even 

1 Second edition, p. 208. 



114 THE MAN VERDI 

raging, the doctors said, there would be more hope. As things were, 
only a miracle could save him. 'It's desolating; it's too desolating.' 

Within a year Donizetti was dead. 

After an interval of six years we have two letters from Verdi to 
Giuseppina Appiani from 1854. He was then in Paris. The first of 
these letters is that, mentioned above, in which he gives, for the 
benefit of Giuseppina's daughter Eugenia, his opinion of a play 
apparently based on Lamartine's Graziella; the second, dated 21st 
October, represents in all probability the end of this correspondence 
and of a friendship of some eleven or twelve years' standing: 

Your letter reached Peppina by chance, by pure chance. As the address 
you chose to affix is unknown to the door of this house, that gracious letter 
ran the risk of getting lost if, I repeat, pure chance had not led me to meet 
the postman who, seeing a name ending in 'i', asked me about it. I took it 
and carried it to its destination. Peppina told me that, having renounced 
arts and letters, and not keeping up any correspondence except with her 
family and a few very intimate friends, she would be grateful if I would 
make her excuses and reply to a letter so spirituelle. And here I am, I who 
cannot write like you or like Peppina, in the greatest embarrassment about 
how to reply to a letter so well written, so fine and, I myself repeat, so 
spirituelle. But I, with my rough style, can make no parade of wit or spirit, 
so I will just say briefly that we are in a great hurry to pack our bags, that 
la Cruvelli's flight from the Opera has obliged me to ask to be released 
from the contract and that I shall go straight to Busseto but shall only stay 
there a few days. Where shall I go then? I couldn't say! Now that you have 
all my news I press your hands. 

One of the results of Verdi's cohabitation with Giuseppina Strep- 
poni, for eleven years before they were actually married, was that he 
was cut off almost completely from the circle of his former friends at 
Milan. For twenty years after the rising of 1848 he never set foot in 
that city. With some of his Milanese friends he continued to corre- 
spond, and we find him on 9th May 1852 writing to the Countess 
Maffei, asking her to convey his good wishes to that Gina della 
Somaglia about whom, in a passage already quoted, Barbiera 
suspects the worst. I say 'suspects the worst' because she, too, was a 
married woman with a family at the time, as is seen from the fact 
that one of her daughters married in 1852. 1 'In other days', Verdi 
told the Countess Maffei, ' she would herself have given me the news, 
but now this friendly relationship too, is over, and it is not her fault. 
It is all my fault, or rather, the fault of destiny, which strangely 
contrives to deprive me, one by one, of all the things that give me 
pleasure.' 

How are we to interpret Verdi's last letter to Giuseppina Appiani? 

1 See also Abbiati, vol. i, p. 606, a passage in flagrant contradiction to another in his 
vol. ii, p. 284. 




Giuseppina Strepponi 



DONIZETTI, VERDI AND APPIANI 115 

It seems that she had written to Giuseppina Strepponi, using her 
maiden name which, after all, was the only one to which she was so 
far entitled. It is difficult to know what to do in such cases ; a letter 
addressed to 'Giuseppina Verdi' might have been equally offensive 
in her eyes, or his. It is clear that Verdi's companion had no desire to 
enter into correspondence under any name whatsoever; he himself, 
with obvious embarrassment, conveys this to his old friend. Gatti 
finds the letter 'mordent'. Clinging still to his romantic hypothesis, 
he believes that Mme Appiani ' sought to insinuate herself ' between 
Giuseppina Strepponi and Verdi, and addressed her letters 'with 
offensive ostentation', until Verdi cut her short. It is hard to credit 
this. Verdi's life had been finked with Giuseppina Strepponi's for six 
years already at this time. He cannot possibly have seen Mme Appiani 
for six and a half years and probably not for longer. She herself was 
now getting on for sixty years of age. Gatti's conclusion is that with 
the end of this friendship 

the shade of Donizetti, dear both to Mme Appiani and to Giuseppina 
Strepponi, rose again beyond the tomb, deriding not the latter, but the 
former, who had been so complaisant of her beauty, and whose fascination 
had been so powerful. 1 

Donizetti's shade may still be laughing — but not, I suggest, at his 
good friend Giuseppina Appiani, nor at the noble woman who 
became the second wife of the composer whose genius he had so early 
recognized and unselfishly praised, but at the biographers who have 
made so much of a handful of letters, some embroidered slippers and 
a pair of braces that apparently got lost in the post. 

The whole story is repeated by Abbiati, with his customary fictional 
embellishments. 

The toils of the researcher have their compensations. One such 
came to me when I found, at Forli, Donizetti's letter of 24th May 
1844, about Verdi and Ernani in Vienna; being signed 'Your Lodger' 
it had not even been recognized as a Donizetti autograph. Another 
rewarding moment came when, in the same year, I was copying 
Giuseppina Strepponi's letters to Florimo, in the Naples Conserva- 
torio. Bound up with them was a letter signed 'Peppina Appiani'. 
On 18th May 1837 she was in Rome, on her way to Naples to hand 
over to Florimo some souvenirs of Bellini. There was cholera at 
Naples and she wrote asking for advice and enclosing a letter of 
introduction that she had brought with her from Milan. This letter 
is also preserved in this volume of autograph letters; it is from 

1 First edition, II, p. 150; second edition, p. 492. A groundless rumour that Giuseppina 
Strepponi was once Donizetti's mistress is recorded by Donati-Petteni. 

The careless inaccuracy of reputable Italian writers is almost incredible. Antonio 
Monti, in his Milano Romantica, 1814-1848 (Milan 1946), p. 283, declares that Donizetti 
was in love with Clara Maffei, and jealous of Verdi on that account ! 



116 THE MAN VERDI 

Giuditta Turina, Bellini's famous mistress, and with it are twenty-one 
other letters from Giuditta to Florimo. 1 But we are here concerned 
with Giuseppina Appiani. She asked about the cholera, quarantine 
regulations and hotels, and went on : 

Be frank and sincere : what sort of opinion have you formed of me, who 
without knowing you personally am writing to you with such familiarity 
and abandon? Don't be severe; I know you and feel affection for you. Are 
you not the bosom friend of the unfortunate Bellini, over whose loss we 
are shedding warm tears still? 

I had the good fortune to have that illustrious man in my house for well 
over a year; I had the good fortune to look after him with the utmost 
affection, and at a time when he was ill it was in my house that the divine 
music of La Sonnambula was born. Ah ! my dear Florimo, how could we 
not be friends, we who share such dear and painful memories? I have here 
two walking-sticks and a cushion that belonged to that beloved friend; I 
guard them jealously; I will not consign them to anyone else; from my 
hands they must pass into yours. Oh, how many things we shall have to 
tell each other when we meet ! 

Here at last we hear Giuseppina Appiani's own voice. And we find 
that Barbiera was right when he said that Bellini had 'composed 
suave melodies ' while her guest in Via Monforte. La Sonnambula was 
written there, eleven years before Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix. The 
nature of her relations with Bellini, when a good deal younger than 
she was at the time of her friendship with Donizetti and Verdi, sup- 
ports the view put forward in this chapter that she was not at all the 
flirtatious 'Merry Widow' of the Italian biographers and journalists. 
The fact that Giuditta Turina herself provided her with a letter 
of introduction to Florimo shows conclusively that she had had no 
reason to be jealous. The composers who lived in Giuseppina's house 
were not necessarily her lovers. A truer picture is beginning to 
emerge. She seems to have been a music-loving lady of society, 
kind-hearted, hospitable and generous, with a little weakness, 
perhaps, for entertaining in her house the most famous composers 
of the day. 

1 See 'Giuditta Turina and Bellini' {Music & Letters, Jan. 1959). 



CHAPTER 



Muzio's Verdi: 
Milan before the Revolution 



T 



welve years after Antonio Barezzi had sent the young Verdi 
to Milan to complete his studies he assisted in the same way another 
local musical prodigy. Emanuele Muzio, 1 the red-headed son of a 
poor cobbler, was born at Zibello, in the Duchy of Parma, on 24th 
August 1821. The family moved to Busseto in 1826 and at ten years 
of age Emanuele entered the municipal school of music, during the 
period when Verdi was acting as Provesi's assistant. But Muzio at 
first intended to become a priest and after Provesi's death he studied 
music, not under Verdi, but under Verdi's rival, Giovanni Ferrari, 
the organist of the collegiate church of San Bartolomeo. When Ferrari 
left Busseto, apparently in 1840, Muzio succeeded him as provisional 
organist, though with only half Ferrari's salary. In 1842 the Monte 
di Pieta e d'Abbondanza refused Muzio a monetary grant to enable 
him to study at the ecclesiastical seminary of Borgo San Donnino 
and he abandoned all idea of becoming a priest. He seems, like Verdi 
himself, to have come into collision with the Provost, Don Ballarini. 
The ever helpful Barezzi then took up Muzio's case and in December 
1843 the Monte di Pieta decided to give him a pension for four years 
so that he could study music at Milan. The conditions were that he 
should, within fourteen days of leaving Busseto, inform the adminis- 
trators of the Monte di Pieta whether he had been accepted as a pupil 
of the Milan Conservatorio, and, if not accepted, under which 

1 He signs himself 'Mussio' in his early letters and is so named in documents in the 
archives of the Monte di Pieta. This is a phonetic rendering of the local dialect pro- 
nunciation, with its soft z sound. 

117 



118 THE MAN VERDI 

teacher he was studying privately; every two months his teacher was 
to report on his progress, and if he failed to make progress he would 
lose his pension. 

So Muzio, like Verdi, came to Milan with the help of the Monte di 
Pieta and of Antonio Barezzi, and like Verdi he failed to obtain 
admission to the Conservatorio. Shortly afterwards, to his own 
amazement and delight, he found himself Verdi's pupil. Barezzi 
noted down in his Libro di Casa on 10th April 1844, 'a most beautiful 
sunny day', that he had handed Emanuele Muzio a loan in cash of 
180 Milanese lire and 80 centesimi, and on 13th April, 'a day of light 
rain, followed by sunshine', that Verdi and Muzio left together for 
Piacenza, on their way to Milan. On a loose leaf he recorded: 

Emanuele Muzio commenced his musical studies at Milan under the 
direction of Maestro Giuseppe Verdi on 15th April 1844, according to a 
certificate of the aforesaid Maestro consigned to the administrators of the 
Monte di Pieta at Busseto. 

In a long series of letters which Muzio, while studying with Verdi 
in the years 1844-7, wrote to their common benefactor at Busseto he 
reveals himself as a backward, ill-educated, naive, but lovable and 
loyal youth. His teacher became and remained almost his god. In 
these letters 1 we have, against the background of Milanese life 
before 1848, a superb portrait of Verdi in his shirt-sleeves. 

22nd April: 

For some days now Signor Maestro Verdi has been giving me lessons 
in counterpoint, for no one can go to the Conservatorio, either from the 
Milanese province or from abroad, and if in time I shall be able to go 
there, it will be a special concession that the Viceroy and the Governor 
of Milan will make for Signor Maestro Verdi ; furthermore he is going to 
be so kind as to write me the certificate, which I shall send to you at once 
as soon as I get it; many music students would pay two or three thalers a 
lesson if Signor Maestro Verdi would give them, but he gives them to 
nobody, save a poor devil to whom he has shown a thousand favours, and 
finally that of giving him lessons, not just two or three times a week, but 
every morning. I am stunned ; and, what is more, sometimes when he has 
me do something for him he gives me my lunch as well. He, my Signor 
Maestro, has a grandeur of mind, a generosity, a knowledge, a heart, 
such that to find a good parallel one would have to set beside it your own, 
and say that they are the most generous hearts in all the world. 

20th May: 

Signor Seletti is beginning to get over his illness, and he asked me to 
send you his regards ; when I came to Milan he was rather unwell and asked 
me to go to see Carrara. I told that to the Signor Maestro, and he said: 

1 Giuseppe Verdi nelle lettere di Emanuele Muzio ad Antonio Barezzi, edited by Luigi 
Agostino Garibaldi (Milan, 1931). 



MUZIO'S VERDI 119 

'No.' We went then together with the Signor Maestro to find a room, a 
piano, etc., for me. What kindness! 

I hope that you are in the best of health ; I myself sometimes get the 
headache. The Signor Maestro says it's the study of counterpoint, for 
sometimes one has to rack one's brains for an hour over a single bar ; today 
I have a most difficult bass — the Signor Maestro said so himself and when 
he says that, you may be sure that it really is difficult. I only have four more 
to do, then I shall start on Corelli. 

29th May: 

I have finished Fenaroli's books on harmony. Now I am revising. The 
Signor Maestro says to me when I begin the lesson : ' Remember that I am 
inexorable.'' Imagine how frightened I am; but little by little this disappears 
when he says: 'Well done'; but believe me, he doesn't pass a note— he 
wants everything perfect. He won't have two hidden consecutive fifths or 
octaves (open ones are, of course, excommunicated) ; he wants all the parts 
like a scale, without ever a jump; they must never rise all together in 
similar motion ; and all the parts, in whatever clef they are written, must 
never go above this note: 



=£ 



The conditions are few, but the difficulty is in putting them into execution. 
. . . Now I am on another subject, having finished also with melodies based 
on the scale; and instead I am adding eight parts, all consonant, under a 
single note of the scale ; then one note against one, two against one, etc. ; 
this is real counterpoint; the notes being so many points put one against 
the other; and from this has come the word 'Counterpoint', that is, one 
point against the other, or note against note. (This was yesterday's explana- 
tion.) Up to now I have studied harmony and I assure you that if I had 
been under another teacher, apart from the fact that he would not have 
taught me so well, so perfectly, I should have needed almost a year, 
certainly, for Corbellini (I tell you this in confidence), in the six months 
that he has been studying, has not got half as far as I have got in the same 
subject in such a short time. Something depends, too, on the pupil's will to 
study, but it is also certain that the teacher has great influence, for those 
mercenary teachers never teach with the love and zeal of Signor Maestro 
Verdi; for when I wrote even more basses than he had told me to do, he 
was glad, and said I should write as many as I liked, as long as they were 
well done; and then the other teachers don't give such fine, minute 
explanations as the Signor Maestro Verdi; and in this way a pupil also 
comes to take a passionate interest. 

I can say truly that I was born lucky: first to have found an incompar- 
able Maecenas who supports me, secondly to have a teacher so celebrated 
and of European fame like Signor Maestro Verdi, who is the idol of the 
Milanese. . . . But when I think that in the coming summer he will go away 
to write the opera, very great melancholy overcomes me. ... He 's so kind 
to me that sometimes I can't keep back my tears ; for sometimes, to finish 



120 THE MAN VERDI 

the lesson, he lets people, no matter who it is, wait half an hour in the 
antechamber. 

Now I go to school at eleven o'clock, because now he gets up early to 
write / due Foscari. The introductory chorus, which is the congress of the 
Council of Ten, is magnificent and terrible, and in the music one feels the 
mystery that reigned in those terrible gatherings which decided life and 
death; and then imagine whether the Father of the Chorus, as the Milanese 
call him, has set it to music well! ! 

At Milan they talk only of the Signor Maestro's Ernani and everybody 
longs for August, to hear it. The Grand Duchess of Tuscany has arrived 
at Milan, and the gentleman who accompanied her has expressed the 
desire to meet the Signor Maestro in person, as he only knew him by 
reputation, and I believe that he has been presented to the Grand Duchess. 
He says that for him such things are silly trifles. 

1 1th June (after the production of Ernani in Vienna) : 

If you, Signore, had been in the Signor Maestro Verdi's house when the 
news of the great success arrived, to see coming there, for quite an hour, 
first one to whom Donizetti had written, then another who had received 
the news from a count — I don't remember his name — then another who 
had a letter from Merelli, and so many others that they went on for ever, 
and to hear the fine things that they wrote about the Signor Maestro and 
his Ernani, you would have wept certainly, for you are very sensitive; and 
then to see them all sitting there, first one reading his letter and then 
another, and with these papers in their hands they looked like so many 
boys at school reciting their lessons, and the Signor Maestro there in the 
middle, at his table, looked like the teacher, and I in a corner, staring my 
eyes out, was like the school beadle. It was delightful. 

Ernani is in preparation at Florence and Genoa ; but the Signor Maestro 
is not satisfied with Derivis, who will sing it at Genoa, because he lacks 
grace ; yesterday the Signor Maestro said : ' How can he sing the delicate 
" Vieni meco sol di rose" with that great ugly voice of his?' Everyone says 
he is right. You too will be of this opinion, for you have heard Derivis. 
But that doesn't matter to the impresarios ; as long as they can attract the 
public, they don't bother about anything else. 

Two days ago I began the Corelli kindly given me by Signor Ricordi; 
I am transcribing it and studying it at the same time; it's stuff that is hard 
to digest, this Corelli, but already I almost understand his system, very 
different from the other contrapuntists, but beautiful and highly scientific. 

24th June: 

Often, with the Signor Maestro, we talk about you and with a certain 
enthusiasm we recall your good deeds ; I said that you deserve to live as 
long as the Patriarchs; 'Longer', added the Signor Maestro, 'but with 
faculties preserved as in youthful years.' A most beautiful reflection! And 
the Signor Maestro is right, and you deserve it, for in the kindness of your 
heart, and with courage and vigour, you defended and gave new life to a 
poor devil they wanted to oppress and bring to naught. . . . 



MUZIO'S VERDI 121 

On Saturday there came a singer who wanted the Signor Maestro to 
write a contralto part for her in the opera he is composing for Rome. He 
said the libretto was already finished and he couldn't. 'That doesn't 
matter,' said this lady. ' Just one scene, an entry, a cabaletta . . . ' It was 
funny, he could not dissuade her from her purpose; afterwards she wanted 
him to promise at least to write a part for her in the opera for Carnival. 
The Signor Maestro lost patience and said: 'No, no,' and so she went 
away. 

He is tormented by everybody; he says he won't receive anybody else, 
but he is so good he will never carry this out. 

A composer, I don't remember his name, has written a letter to the 
Signor Maestro, in which he begs and prays him not to set to music / due 
Foscari, because he too has set it to music, and he fears that there will 
happen to his opera what happened to Mazzucato's Ernani; the Signor 
Maestro has replied that he is already engaged on the work and cannot 
comply with this ardent request. . . } 

I have got as far as the famous Opera Quinta of Corelli, the most 
beautiful, lengthy and difficult. This morning I began the imitations. The 
Signor Maestro uses the same exercises that he did under Lavigna's 
direction, only improved by himself. He guides me with his lamp, and 
illuminates the path I have undertaken. The lesson doesn't last more than 
a quarter of an hour — I leave you to imagine the reason. But my purse is 
light, and I have reckoned up and I have enough money to last until the 
middle of July, but on the 15th of that month I have to pay the rent for 
the room and the piano, and I shall have no money. Please come to my 
assistance; the Signor Maestro says to me: 'When you need money you 
must tell me quite openly,' but I haven't the courage, because he does too 
much already in teaching me so well, and so willingly. This morning he 
asked me: 'How do you think you are getting on, since you've been 
studying with me?' I told him: 'I have been born again.' 

30th June: 

Guess to how many theatres Ricordi has already sent the score of 
Ernani — to more than twenty! You will have received that article from 
Rome; at the bottom of that cutting I told you that the Signor Maestro is 
sending the music publishers mad. It is so. The publisher Lucca is at the 
moment the maddest of the lot, because he can't have an opera by the 
Signor Maestro, while he sees Ricordi making enormous profits from 
them, for just by the copies of the score of Ernani (not counting the 
innumerable arrangements) he has already made more than 30,000 
Austrian lire; and if the Signor Maestro will promise Lucca one of his 
scores he will recover; for the rest I don't believe he will. The wife of the 
said publisher came to the Signor Maestro's house and wept and entreated 
him to give her the rights in one of his operas, and as for the price she will 
give him whatever he asks. He doesn't want to give her any of them. This 
lady said that even when they are in bed they only sigh ; the Signor Maestro 

1 The composer was Francesco Cannetti. Verdi's reply was published in La Vedetta 
Fascista (Padua) for 30th March 1930, and in Rivista musicale italiana for April- June 
1930, p. 323. 



122 THE MAN VERDI 

asked her if they did nothing else but sigh when they're in bed, and in this 
way he makes a joke of the whole thing and gets rid of her. 

The reason why the lessons are so short is that the Signor Maestro sees 
at a glance if there are mistakes in my exercise; if it's not right he indicates 
where I must correct it; I correct it and he gives another glance, and that 
suffices. Then a few words on tomorrow's lesson, five minutes playing — 
that's the lesson. Does that seem little to you? Nevertheless, with these 
quarters of an hour I have reached a stage I should certainly not have 
reached with anybody else. Everything has turned out for the best. 

These letters, ' a monument of ingenuousness, of mediocrity and 
devotion', as they have been called, are immensely valuable, in 
particular as a corrective to the idea of Verdi given by his business 
correspondence, which happens to have survived in greater measure 
than his private correspondence from these years. Much has been 
written about Verdi's peasant shrewdness, his business sense, that 
enabled him to hold his own in the shady world of operatic impres- 
arios and music publishers, where so many earlier composers had 
been victimized. He was more than a match for the toughest of them. 
He needed that relentless, adamantine quality, if he was to make his 
way in this environment. But the picture of Verdi that presents itself 
to the mind's eye after perusal of his business correspondence has a 
hard outline. Muzio's letters soften the portrait, and give it light and 
shade. Here too we see him — severe and implacable in his dealings 
with singers, impresarios and publishers; and then — kindly in his 
gruff way, large-hearted, generous and charitable. These are what he 
used to call his 'anni di galera' — his years in the galleys — but we find 
that he sometimes relaxed and smiled, and even laughed aloud on 
more than one occasion. 

The firm of Lucca, mentioned in the last-quoted letter, was 
particularly unfortunate in its dealings with Verdi. Francesco Lucca, 
born at Cremona in 1802, worked for some years as a music-engraver 
in Ricordi's workshops before in 1825 he founded his own publishing 
house. He was short, fattish and, under his brown wig, bald. His wife 
Giovannina, nee Strazza, who, as Muzio reported, came to the 
Signor Maestro's house and wept, was an enormous and most 
formidable woman. She was the real head of the firm, who carried 
out all the most important and difficult business for her husband. 
Born at Fontanella, near Cernobbio, in 1814, possessed of a com- 
mercial intelligence of the first order, she brought the house of Lucca 
into rivalry with that of Ricordi, until, long after her husband's 
death, at the age of seventy-four she sold out to her rivals for the 
sum of a million and a half lire. But at this time she was far from 
thinking of dying or selling out. The two firms came into conflict 
almost at the very beginning of Verdi's career. The rights in Nabucco 
were held in equal parts by Verdi and by Merelli, under the terms of 



MUZIO'S VERDI 123 

their agreement. On 13th March 1842 Verdi sold his half to Lucca. 
But the other half, and the rights in Solera's libretto, were bought 
from Merelli by Ricordi. Lucca brought an unsuccessful action 
against Ricordi, claiming half rights in the libretto. His petition was 
filed on 5th October, and came before the Mercantile Tribunal at 
Milan on 17th November 1842. 1 The fact that this action was pending 
probably explains the extremely acrimonious tone of two little-known 
notes from Verdi to Lucca, from September and October of this year, 
which are referred to and quoted by Giuseppe Lisio in Su Vepistolario 
di Casa Lucca, in the Rendiconti of the Reale Istituto Lombardo di 
Scienze e Lettere, Serie II, vol. xli (Milan, 1907): 

In the first he invites Signor Lucca to send him immediately the sum of 
1,500 Austrian lire, which he was promised in the presence of a certain 
person, and adds : ' If you are hoping I shall pass this over in silence, let 
me warn you that it is more likely that Milan will fall in ruins.' In the 
second note, which is on the same subject, the form is less rude but the 
content no different: 'Let Signor Lucca reflect that he must make the 
payment in my house; so without further vexation kindly send me' . . . etc. 

The Strenna teatrale europea for 1843 refers to the unfortunate 
litigation between Lucca and Ricordi, which was hampering and 
delaying the reproduction of Nabucco from end to end of the Italian 
peninsula, and this restriction of the circulation of his first big success, 
through the action of a grasping publisher, was something Verdi did 
not find it easy to forget. So Giovannina, in June 1844, got no 
change, in spite of her tears and entreaties. By a change of tactics, the 
Luccas were later to acquire three of Verdi's operas — Attila, which 
they bought, a year before it was written, from the Florentine 
impresario Lanari who had commissioned it, and Alzira and // 
Corsaro, two poor works on which they assuredly lost money. They 
published also a volume of six Romanze in 1845 and another isolated 
song, 'II Poveretto', in 1847. 

It seems that not all Muzio's letters to Antonio Barezzi have been 
preserved: after the end of June 1844 there is a gap of several months 
in the published correspondence, only partially explained by the fact 
that Muzio and Verdi did not spend the summer months together at 
Milan. The letters from the following autumn and winter are perhaps 
a little less naive, but it is still hard to realize that Muzio was now 
twenty-four, and Verdi less than seven years his senior. 

In October and early November Verdi was in Rome for the first 
performance of / due Foscari at the Argentina theatre. He and the 
librettist, Francesco Maria Piave, sent a joint report to a Milanese 
friend, Luigi Toccagni: 2 

1 Enrico Rosmini, Legislazione e Giurispmdenza sui Diritti d'Autore (Milan, 1890). 

2 Original in the Memorial Library, Stanford University, U.S.A. 

*E 



124 THE MAN VERDI 

Rome, 4th November 1844. 
Dear Toccagni, 

If / due Foscari was not a complete failure, it almost was — whether 
because the singers were very much out of tune, or because expectations 
were raised too high, etc., the fact is that the opera was a mezzo-fiasco. I 
had a great liking for this opera: perhaps I deceived myself, but before 
changing my mind I want another opinion. I shall leave for Milan on 
Thursday the 7th and shall be there on the 12th. 

Farewell, 

Yours, 

G. Verdi. 

(Postscript by Piave) : 

The very expectations of the audience caused them to be rather cool, 
and this was then increased by the out-of-tune singing, etc., etc. Verdi, 
however, was called quite twelve times to the stage, but that which would 
be for others a triumph is nothing to him. The music of / due Foscari is 
divine and I do not doubt that this evening, tomorrow and subsequently 
it will be appreciated more and more. If you happen to speak of my book, 
remember your old promise. Farewell, dear Toccagni; it seems to be 
destined that I should make you aware of my existence, as when I first met 
you, at the moment when I am about to separate from our dearest Verdi. 
Retain your friendship for me and believe me 

Yours sincerely, 

F. M. Piave. 

Muzio described on 16th November how he had travelled from 
Busseto to Milan by bad roads and arrived an hour before Verdi, 
who was himself tired out after the long journey from Rome by 
diligence : 

The Signor Maestro is well; but when he first arrived he had all his 
bones broken — he was helpless with fatigue. His friends were there waiting 
for him at the coaching station — Maffei, Toccagni, Pasetti, Ricordi, 
Pedroni, etc. The day after they all came to lunch with the Signor Maestro 
and drank his health in Bordeaux and champagne. 

Muzio was left at home when Verdi went to pay his social calls; he 
can tell us nothing of the composer's relations with Giuseppina 
Appiani, Emilia Morosini and her family, with Gina della Somaglia 
or with Giuseppina Strepponi. But he came to know Verdi's male 
friends of this period, the chief of whom are mentioned in the letter 
quoted above. The publisher Giovanni Ricordi (1785-1853) needs no 
introduction : it may have been either he or his eldest son Tito who 
awaited the arrival of the diligence bringing Verdi back from Rome. 
Luigi Toccagni (1788-1853) was another friend of an earlier genera- 
tion. He had compiled an Italian dictionary, written a libretto, Marco 
Visconti, for Vaccai, translated a book on Pope Innocent III from the 



MUZIO'S VERDI 125 

German, and Chateaubriand's Atala and Genie du christianisme from 
the French, and was an influential journalist, a contributor to the 
Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano. Particularly intimate with the 
Morosini family, he had introduced Verdi to them and to other 
members of the Milanese aristocracy. Giacomo Pedroni was the 
friend through whom Donizetti, earlier in this year, had offered to 
watch over the performances of Ernani in Vienna. Pasetti was an 
engineer, who had helped Verdi, to some extent, in his relations with 
Merelli. He is referred to, as 'Pascetti', in a later letter to Arrivabene, 
as ' a good man, of timid, weak character. His foible was to give out 
promises and protection to right and left, under the illusion of having 
done great things, when he had, at best, only the merit of good 
intentions.' x The poet and translator Andrea Maffei (1798-1885) was 
a little later to write for Verdi the libretto of / Masnadieri, after 
Schiller's Die Rduber. When he and the Countess Clara 2 decided on 
a legal separation in 1846, Verdi was asked to be a witness to the 
deed. He remained on very friendly terms with both parties after the 
separation. The countess received many of the best letters Verdi ever 
wrote in the course of their long acquaintance; there are fewer letters 
to Andrea, though probably many more were written than have 
survived. A letter from Maffei to his wife, though it comes from a 
later period, is worth quoting here : 

To increase my ill humour, there arrived Verdi's reply. He refuses, saying 
that he is incapable of setting to music poems of anacreontic type. He 
forgets that he has already set to music stupendously the drinking-songs 
in Macbeth and / Masnadieri, and that which I wrote at his request: 
' Mescetemi il vino ! ' Happy he, who has an adamantine temper and can 
reject everything that doesn't just suit him, even at the request of an old 
friend ! My own nature, on the other hand, is so compliant that if he had 
asked me to write on his old boots I should not have refused. 

That is more revealing, of both men, than any of their own surviving 
correspondence. We see again the hard side of Verdi's nature, but at 
the same time the adoring devotion he inspired in those who knew 
him. 

Other friends of this Milanese period were Giulio Carcano (1812- 
1884), the translator of Shakespeare, and Francesco Regli, editor of 
the theatrical paper // Pirata. When Regli, for // Pirata, or Toccagni, 
for the Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano, needed information about 
Verdi's affairs they would often come to Muzio for it. They knew 
him for the composer's pupil and amanuensis, errand-boy and dis- 
ciple; sitting together in Verdi's rooms, they would notice how, if 
anything needed to be done, he would just go to the window and give 

1 Letter of 31st March 1863. 

2 Clara Maffei was born Countess Spinelli-Carrara and, unlike Giuseppina Appiani, 
who was similarly situated, retained the use of her title after her marriage to a commoner. 



126 THE MAN VERDI 

a whistle, and the red-headed, uncouth but lovable youth, who often 
changed his lodgings but was never far distant from the Signor 
Maestro, would come running to see what was wanted. To help 
Muzio, to give him an opportunity to earn a little money, was to 
keep on the right side of Verdi. 

Muzio's musical tastes were formed by the town band of Busseto. 
He went into ecstasies over the worst features of Verdi's most 
mediocre operas. Giovanna d'Arco followed hard on the heels of 
/ due Foscari, and in December Muzio was declaring that if Joan of 
Arc had not immortalized herself by her deeds, Verdi's music would 
have done so for her : 

9th December: 

No Giovanna has ever had music more philosophical and beautiful. 
The terrible introduction (an inspiration that came to him, as you know, 
amidst the rocky precipices 2 ) and the magnificent piece ' Maledetti cui 
spinse rea voglia ' are two things to amaze every poor mortal. The demons' 
choruses are original, popular, truly Italian; the first ('Tu sei bella') is a 
most graceful waltz, full of seductive motives, that after two hearings can 
be sung straight away; the second ('Vittoria, vittoria, s'applauda a 
Satana ') is music of diabolical exaltation, music that makes one shudder 
and tremble; in short they are divine things; in that opera there will be all 
kinds of music: dramatic, religious, martial, etc. Everything I have heard 
pleases me enormously. 

22nd December: 

This morning the Signor Maestro wrote the march for Giovanna. How 
beautiful it is ! 

29th December: 

Yesterday I heard the great duet between Giovanna and Carlo, when 
they fall in love; this is the grandest and most magnificent piece in the 
opera ; I have heard the finale of the third act, where there is one of the 
most beautiful melodies that have ever been heard. 

6th January: 

What marvels! You should hear how the duet between Giovanna and 
Carlo, when they fall in love, is conceived; the Angels' terrible words 
' Guai se terreno affetto accoglierai nel petto ' make one tremble, and poor 
Giovanna, who alone hears them, breaks into song that is all desperation 
for her lost virtue. Then in the cabaletta from time to time one hears the 
demons singing 'Vittoria, vittoria', and here Giovanna's song becomes 
continually louder and more agitated ; then at the great final cadenza there 
burst out the infernal choirs, with brass band and orchestra, singing 
'Vittoria, vittoria', etc.; the whole chorus can be compared with the 
sublime ones of Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable. There are so many beautiful 

1 In the passes of the Apennines, on the way back from Rome. 



MUZIO'S VERDI 127 

things that one would need a whole day to describe them. Carlo's romance ; 
the coronation Te Deum; then when Tebaldo accuses his daughter ; etc. — 
they are all gems. 

Giovanna d'Arco was preceded at La Scala by a revival of / Lom- 
bard, and Muzio provides a vivid sketch of Verdi at the rehearsals of 
the latter opera : 

I go to the rehearsals with the Signor Maestro and it makes me sorry 
to see him tiring himself out ; he shouts as if in desperation ; he stamps his 
feet so much that he seems to be playing an organ with pedals; he sweats 
so much that drops fall on the score. ... At his glance, at a sign from him, 
the singers, chorus and orchestra seem to be touched by an electric spark. 

In his own studies Muzio was now passing from works of Corelli 
and Tartini to those of Vallotti, 'the most metaphysical and trans- 
cendental harmonist known', and copying scores by Mattei and 
Padre Martini. He was also trying his hand at composition, producing 
marches which were sent to Barezzi at Busseto, with full instructions 
for their performance. From one of Verdi's later remarks it appears 
that he had no faith in Muzio's future as a composer; but he held 
that he was good enough for Busseto. There the situation often years 
earlier was strangely renewing itself. When Muzio had left for Milan 
the provost had chosen one Enrico Landi to succeed him as organist 
of the collegiate church. Once installed as organist Landi, naturally 
enough, tried to secure also the post of municipal music master, but 
the Monte di Pieta insisted that this position should be held open until 
such time as their own candidate, Muzio, should have completed his 
studies with Verdi at Milan. The maestro di musica would then be 
chosen by competitive examination. Landi had also managed to win 
over part of the Philharmonic Society, and when renewed appeals for 
the lifting of the ban on instrumental music in the churches of 
Busseto reached the Presidente dell'Interno at Parma, he assured the 
Bishop of Borgo San Donnino that the old hostilities were over and 
that ' the greater part of the Philharmonic members ' followed the lead 
of the organist Landi, 'under whose able direction they are already 
practising, and appear often in perfect accord at the municipal 
theatre. 1 But the then bishop, Monsignore Pier Grisologo Basetti, 
feared further disorders and the ban remained in force. Where 
Busseto had formerly been divided between the supporters of the 
organist Ferrari and of the absent Verdi, it was now divided between 
the supporters of the organist Landi and of the absent Muzio, with 
the further complication that the Philharmonic members were 
divided among themselves. When Barezzi tried to get Muzio's early 
compositions performed by the Philharmonic Society he met with 
opposition from the ' Landisti '. But the marches had Verdi's approval : 

1 Giovanni Drei, 'Notizie e documenti verdiani'. 



128 THE MAN VERDI 

He says that if he had not considered them good he would not have 
allowed me to send them. . . . The Signor Maestro has now himself played 
them and replayed them, and says they are good ; for the rest, when they 
have understood the tempi you will see that they will please. These lines 
are being written under the eye of the Signor Maestro, who after reading 
them approves what I have said. 

A little later: 

If the Landisti don't like my marches it doesn't matter. It suffices that 
the Signor Maestro liked them and said they are beautiful. . . . The Signor 
Maestro, on reading the paragraph in your letter about the marches, 
laughed a lot and said : ' These Landisti think they know better than I do ! 
Bravi! Bravissimi! What asses! What asses!' 

These occasional quotations of Verdi's actual words, in Muzio's 
letters, are extraordinarily revealing. He does not say much, but the 
voice is unmistakable. Thus, when an expected letter from Busseto 
had not arrived: 'What the devil are they doing, that they don't 
write? Are they all dead?' 

Giovanna a VArco at La Scala on 15th February 1845 was the last 
opera Verdi was to write for that theatre for more than twenty-five 
years. He was thoroughly disgusted with the way Merelli was pro- 
ducing his works there, and decided to have no more to do with him. 
The protagonists in Giovanna d'Arco included Erminia Frezzolini 
and her husband Antonio Poggi, the tenor; Muzio depicts la Frezzo- 
lini weeping because her voice was not what it once was, and Poggi 
being hissed. When the Countess Samoyloff told Poggi that the 
Milanese did not like him, he wished to break his agreement with 
Merelli, but Verdi managed to persuade him to stay. Giovanna 
d'Arco was a popular success and soon the barrel-organs were playing 
the waltz chorus of the demons: 'Tu sei bella.' A sensation was 
caused later by the appearance of a monstrous barrel-organ, the 
largest ever seen at Milan, which played, not just a few of the more 
obvious tunes, but, so Muzio reported, almost the whole opera. It 
drew such crowds that all traffic was dislocated and the police had to 
ban its appearance in the streets in the evening. 

The names of Emilia Frezzolini, Poggi and the Countess Samoyloff 
recur in these letters. These figures, too, move across the background 
of Verdi's life at Milan before the revolution. Erminia Frezzolini, 
born at Orvieto in 1818, made her debut in 1838 and soon became 
known as one of the most brilliant rising stars of that time. Her father, 
the buffo bass Giuseppe Frezzolini, did his utmost to exploit her 
success for his own benefit; after she came of age in 1839 he made her 
sign away the whole of her earnings until February 1841 and agree to 
pay him 3,000 francs a year for the rest of his life. 1 He managed to 

1 A. de Angelis, 'Cantanti italiani del secolo XIX: Erminia e Giuseppe Frezzolini' 
(Rivista musicale italiana, Sept. 1925). 



MUZIO'S VERDI 129 

break off an engagement to the baritone Felice Varesi in 1839 and 
was naturally furious when, after an acquaintance of a few weeks, 
she accepted a proposal of marriage from the composer Nicolai at 
Brescia on 30th August 1840. The course of this affair can be followed 
in Nicolai's diaries. 1 Erminia seems to have made use of Nicolai to 
escape from her father's custody, and her father then to have pro- 
tected his own interests by persuading her, in Nicolai's absence, to 
accept the attentions of Antonio Poggi. According to Nicolai's 
diary, Poggi more or less bought her from her father for 40,000 
francs; the marriage took place at Milan on 14th March 1841. 
Erminia distinguished herself very much at the first performance of 
Verdi's / Lombardi at La Scala in 1843. One letter from Verdi to 
Poggi, friendly in tone, survives from this year, 2 and the suggestion 
was made that he should spend a fortnight with Poggi and Erminia 
at their country house in the autumn of 1844 and then they should 
come to Busseto to sing in a charity concert. Nothing came of these 
proposals, but they show that a friendly relationship existed at this 
time. It is doubtful whether Verdi knew the Countess Giulia Samoy- 
loff 3 personally, since she moved largely in pro-Austrian circles, but 
he certainly knew her by repute : no one living at Milan and interested 
in scandal and opera could fail to do that. She was born in Russia on 
6th April 1803, the daughter of Count Paul von der Pahlen, after- 
wards commander-in-chief of the Russian Army. She was thus the 
grand-daughter (not the daughter, as sometimes stated) of Count 
Peter von der Pahlen, chief of the conspirators responsible for the 
strangulation of the Tsar Paul I in 1801. The Countess Giulia is said 
to have been the mistress of the Tsar Nicholas I before he came to 
the throne, and then to have married Count Samoyloff. After her 
husband's early death, or, according to other sources, after her 
separation from him, she came to Milan, where she had relatives, 
members of the ducal family of Litta. The beautiful and immensely 
rich countess first appeared in Milanese society at a ball in 1828, 
dressed in Russian peasant costume. Tall, with opulent figure, black 
hair and greenish eyes, she was a passionate collector of cats, dogs, 
parrots, monkeys and opera singers, entertaining a succession of each 
in her richly furnished apartments in Via Borgonuovo. She had an 
affair with Giovanni Pacini (1796-1867), composer of about ninety 
operas. Pacini, some years earlier, had been chased everywhere by 
Napoleon's second sister, Princess Paolina Borghese, fifteen years his 
senior, and to get rid of the princess had married the daughter of an 

1 Otto Nicolais Tagebiicher (Leipzig, 1892; more complete edition by Wilhelm 
Altmann, Regensburg, 1937). 

2 G. Radiciotti, 'Giuseppe Verdi a Sinigaglia' (Rassegna Marchigiana, Jan. 1923). 

3 Half a dozen different transliterations of the name are found; 'Samoyloff' is the 
form found in contemporary newspapers and used also in printed dedications of works 
by Malibran, Donizetti and Verdi. 



130 THE MAN VERDI 

old friend of his father's. After the death of this first wife he was to 
have married the Countess SamoylorT; a misunderstanding caused the 
engagement to be broken off, but they remained close friends and 
the countess afterwards adopted one of Pacini's daughters. Austrian 
officials crowded to receptions given in Via Borgonuovo and expressed 
their admiration in extravagant gestures. Every morning the Countess 
Giulia bathed in asses' milk, for which, after her ablutions, her 
idolators contended, in the way that Liszt's lady friends, at about the 
same period, collected, bottled and stored away the water in which he 
had washed his hands. The countess's admirers, however, are stated 
to have made ice-cream with the milk from her bath. 

When Liszt and the Countess d'Agoult came to Milan in 1837 they 
made the acquaintance of the Countess SamoylorT, who is referred to, 
by her initial, several times in the journal of the Countess d'Agoult. 1 
From this journal we learn that Poggi was then the reigning favourite : 

Moral freedom seems to be much greater here than in France. Free 
liaisons cause no scandal at all. The word 'lover' is used without hesitation. 
The Countess S., who plays the principal role at Milan, goes openly to 
Trieste because Poggi, her lover, is engaged at the theatre there. 

Another entry credits or debits her with 'an uninterrupted succession 
of mediocre lovers, almost all musicians'. The populace talked about 
her, her carriages, her parrots and monkeys, and in all the shops one 
was first offered such things as the Countess SamoylorT had bought 
there — her favourite writing-paper, the perfumes that she used, the 
jewels she had chosen. A thousand stories were to be heard of her 
truly royal generosity and her pleasing extravagances. 2 But she drew 
the line at Rossini's friend, Olympe Pelissier, and when he tried to 
impose her on Milanese society, the Countess SamoylorT turned her 
back. A letter from Liszt to the Countess d'Agoult, of 29th October 
1839, 3 tells how Poggi had by then been superseded, although he did 
not know it. But six years later he was again, or still, in favour. 

The Austrian sympathies of the Countess SamoylorT were not 
concealed. As a result of this Pacini's operas were hissed at Milan 
because he was known to be her intimate friend, and the fact that she 
was showing renewed interest in Antonio Poggi in 1845 may have 
been the cause of hostility shown to him. But the countess and her 
friends were nevertheless keen admirers of Mme Frezzolini-Poggi. 

1 Comtesse d'Agoult, Memoires 1833-1854, avec une introduction de M. Daniel 
Ollivier (Paris, 1927). 

2 The Neapolitan paper V Omnibus for 21st August 1845 recalls how the Countess 
Samoyloff used to spend the summer on the island of Ischia, where she made herself 
much loved by paying off debts, marrying off poor peasant girls and giving pensions to 
the old and the crippled. On 28th July each year she gave a feast to her dependents and 
admirers, served with her own hands. 

8 Correspondance de Liszt et de la Comtesse d'Agoult, publiee par M. Daniel Ollivier 
(Paris, 1933), I, p. 275. 



MUZIO'S VERDI 131 

On 17th March Muzio reported: 

On Saturday evening the season ended with the last two acts of Ernani 
and the last two acts of Giovanna d'Arco. ... I have never in my life seen 
so many flowers and wreaths; it is said that la Samoyloff has spent 3,000 
francs on flowers, and I assure you that she and her friends went on 
throwing flowers and garlands for a good half-hour. . . . They threw many 
to la Elssler, but more to la Frezzolini, to whom there appeared, after her 
death scene in the finale of Giovanna d'Arco, about twenty girls, all dressed 
in white, with bouquets of various kinds in their hands ; one of these I call 
a Monster Bouquet; it was so enormous that it took two theatre attendants 
to carry it. The final terzetto of Ernani was repeated, and then came sonnets 
dedicated to la Gabussi and De Bassini. Poggi was received with hisses, 
and after his romanza various pieces of paper were seen flying through the 
air; everyone believed they were sonnets in his praise, and he even thanked 
the audience for its courtesy, with a smile on his lips and a number of bows ; 
but there was surprise and a burst of laughter on seeing that instead of 
sonnets they were what the Milanese call guzzinate, i.e. songs the populace 
sings about a husband who beats his wife, a miser, a drunkard, a 
guzzler, etc., and I can tell you that all the Milanese are still laughing 
about it. 

The vocal score of Giovanna d'Arco is actually dedicated to the 
Countess Samoyloff, but by Ricordi, the publisher, and not by Verdi 
himself. 1 

The first five of Verdi's operas had been produced at intervals, 
roughly, of a year; owing to special circumstances eighteen months 
elapsed between Un giorno di regno and Nabucco. After Ernani at 
Venice on 9th March 1844 the tempo had quickened. / due Foscari 
had followed seven months later in the same year, and then Giovanna 
d'Arco after an interval of only three and a half months. In less than 
another six months the next opera, Alzira, was due at Naples. Verdi's 
health in these early years was never very robust and the strain of the 
composition and rehearsal of these operas, one after another, soon 
began to tell. In addition to these tasks, there was the careful control 
of his interests with opera houses, impresarios and publishers, with 
the resultant increasing business correspondence and, from time to 
time, when sufficiently high fees were offered and singers were to his 
satisfaction, the supervision and conducting of his earlier works in 
various Italian towns. Verdi's troubles, probably nervous in origin, 
took the form of throat and stomach complaints, recurring whenever 
he was working at high pressure. The first manifestations had 
occurred in 1844, during the composition of / due Foscari, and now 
in the following year the trouble returned. On 10th April Muzio told 
Barezzi that Verdi had a bad stomach-ache and in subsequent letters 
gave further details of the malady and its treatment : 

1 Reproduction of the title page in Gatti, Verdi nelle immagini, p. 56. 



132 THE MAN VERDI 

14th April: 

Yesterday the Signor Maestro expected your letters, and hoped to 
receive them this morning, but there was nothing at all. He can't write 
because they have bled him, but today he is better, and let's hope he 
will continue to get better. There was danger of inflammation if he delayed 
any longer to have himself bled ; yesterday however he went out, and just 
for today he will stay in bed, to rest and keep out of the cold air. On 
Thursday I will write again and give you better news of the Signor Maestro's 
health, and he tells me that he, too, will write. For the opera at Naples 
there are only two months left ; he will have a doctor's certificate made out 
and send it, and then go there a month later. 

17th April: 

The Signor Maestro received your letter this morning, but he's not 
writing because he is tired. His health is much improved, but his stomach 
pains continue and now they make him take pills. The doctors will make 
out the certificates to send to Naples, and thus he will write the opera when 
he can. . . . They had written to him from Rome, to go to stage Giovanna, 
but he's not going owing to his stomach trouble. I act as his secretary and 
reply to letters ; however, in spite of his illness I have always had my lesson, 
except on the day they bled him, which was Sunday. 

21st April: 

The Signor Maestro has almost completely recovered his health, and 
after a little more rest will be quite free from his stomach trouble. All his 
acquaintances and friends have been most sorry about it and you, Signore, 
more than the others, certainly. Signor Pasetti has sent him some bottles 
of wine, twenty years old, and thus, taking a little glass of it every morning, 
he will be able more and more to tone up his stomach. I assure you it's 
very good, it 's exquisite. . . . The opera for Naples will not be produced 
until July, or perhaps August, and so la Tadolini will sing in it and not la 
Bishop (unless, however, the former loses her voice in childbirth, of which 
there is some question, as she's over forty). All the Neapolitans wish the 
Signor Maestro to write for la Tadolini, and Cammarano, not knowing 
that the Signor Maestro was ill, even wrote him to seek some excuse to 
retard the production until the time I told you. Now the Signor Maestro 
has had me reply that he has no need of excuses and pretexts because he is 
really ill (then, not now) and will send the certificates, and thus he will get 
what he wants and will have a good protagonist. The opera will be com- 
posed only of thirteen or fourteen numbers. The poem is very beautiful. 
This is a chorus of American Indians (in the prologue) who have tied 
Gusmano (the Portuguese Governor) to a tree and intend to kill him: 

' Muoia, muoia coverto d'insulti, 

I martiri sien crudi, ma lenti, 
Strappi ad esso codardi singulti 

II tormento di mille tormenti. 



MUZIO'S VERDI 133 

O fratelli caduti pugnando 
Dalle tombe sorgete ululando ; 
L'inno insiem del trionfo s'intuoni 
Mentre ei sparge Pestremo respir.' 

25th April: 1 

I'm going round getting the Signor Maestro's certificates stamped and 
all the signatures authenticated ; the only one still missing is that of the 
Governor, Count Spaur. If the Neapolitans accept and believe him he will 
write the opera later; if they don't believe him he won't do the opera at all, 
for the very good reason that he doesn't wish to kill himself for other 
people. La Tadolini has already had her baby and as soon as she has got 
over her confinement she will resume her place at the San Carlo theatre at 
Naples. . . . The Signor Maestro's illness is called Anorexia and Dyspnoea. 
He's very well, but still taking the pills. Let's hope that he will soon dis- 
pense with these too. 

28th April: 

The Signor Maestro continues well; he's not doing anything yet about 
the opera for Naples. At present he is occupied only with me, giving me 
lessons from ten in the morning until nearly two in the afternoon. He 
makes me read all the classical music of Beethoven, Mozart, Leindesdorf, 2 
Schubert, Haydn, etc., then we shall come to the moderns. . . . They 
haven't replied yet from Naples; the certificates will already have reached 
their destination; so that they should arrive safely and quickly at Naples 
he made me frank them and then have a receipt for the letter made out by 
the Post Office Director, so that they can't say they haven't received them 
and so that they don't get lost, and thus reach the hands of Signor Flauto, 
who is obliged to give a receipt to the Post Office Director at Naples, and 
then the latter sends the receipt to the Director at Milan, and he gives it to 
the Signor Maestro. 

14th May: 

The Signor Maestro is not doing anything yet. . . . I'm in the midst of 
tribulations with canons and fugues. I transcribe for you the letter from 
the management at Naples that has infuriated the Signor Maestro, who 
has replied as you will see : 

Naples, May 1845. 

To Signor Giuseppe Verdi, 
celebrated composer, 

I am immensely sorry to learn from your favours of the 23rd and 26th 
of last month that you are indisposed. 

The illness, however, from which you are suffering is a trifling affair 
and the only remedies necessary are tincture of wormwood and a prompt 

1 Not included in the published volume of Muzio's letters to Barezzi. Reproduced in 
Gatti's Verdi nelle immagini, p. 188. 

2 Carl Engel once suggested in the Musical Quarterly that this was a mistake for 
Dittersdorf, but Leindesdorf is also possible. Muzio's handwriting is generally easily 
legible. 



134 THE MAN VERDI 

departure for Naples; I assure you that the air here and the excitability 
of our Vesuvius will get all your functions working again and above all 
restore your appetite. 

Make up your mind then to come at once, and abandon the company of 
doctors, who can only increase the indisposition from which you are 
suffering. Your recovery will derive from the air of Naples and from advice 
which I shall give you when you are here, for I too have been a doctor, 
and now have abandoned such imposture. 

Advise me of the day of your departure so that I can prepare suitable 
accommodation and believe me, 

Your sincere friend, 

V. Flauto. 
Reply: 

Milan, 14th May 1845. 

SlGNOR VlNCENZO FLAUTO, 

I am immensely sorry to have to advise you that my illness is not a 

trifling affair, as you believe ; tincture of wormwood is useless in my case. 

As for the excitability of Vesuvius, I assure you that that is not what I 

need to get all my functions working again; I have need of quiet and rest. 

I cannot leave at once for Naples, as you invite me to do; if I could do 

so I should not have sent a medical certificate. 

I advise you of all that so that you can take whatever steps you think 
opportune, while I think seriously about recovering my health. 

Believe me, 

Yours affectionately, 
G. Verdi. 

It will be seen that Verdi's illness occurred at a convenient moment, 
enabling him to defer the production of Alzira until Eugenia Tadolini 
had recovered from her confinement. This is not to say that he used 
the illness merely as an excuse, even though he was well on the way to 
recovery by the time the certificates were sent, as is clear from 
Muzio's letters. If the doctors had advised a month's rest, he was 
within his rights, and wise, to take a full month's rest. Resumption of 
work as soon as he began to feel a little better might well have 
brought on a relapse. Flauto was hard to convince that Verdi's illness 
was genuine, and certainly believed that if he could get the composer 
to Naples he would be able, in one way or another, to force the 
production of the opera at the time originally planned, and with 
Madame Bishop instead of Eugenia Tadolini. But the wily Verdi 
refused to leave Milan until he had everything settled in writing: 

Signor Flauto has promised Cammarano and Fraschini that he will 
concede the month's delay requested and la Tadolini. But the Signor 
Maestro doesn't want words, he wants it in writing; and when Cammarano 
went to get that from the said Signor Flauto he didn't want to give it. What 
scoundrels ! 



MUZIO'S VERDI 135 

Finally the opera was completed in about twenty days, except for the 
finale of the second act, for which Cammarano had not yet supplied 
the verses, and on 20th June Verdi left for Naples. As usual, he left 
the scoring to be done at the last moment at the place of production ; 
for this task he allowed himself six days. 

The Neapolitan correspondent of the Rivista di Roma described 
the warm reception given to the composer: 

When the news spread through the city, not only that he had arrived, 
but that on the same evening he would certainly be present at the San 
Carlo theatre for the performance of / due Foscari, the public, moved by 
legitimate curiosity, gathered in crowds at the theatre to see the famous 
composer in person. The galleries and the vast hall of San Carlo, packed 
with spectators, presented a brilliant scene. The performers, inspired by 
Verdi's presence as if by a charge of electricity, surpassed themselves, so 
that the opera, although heard an infinite number of times in the past two 
seasons, seemed, judging by the effect produced in the auditorium on that 
evening, quite new. All the singers were warmly applauded, but the 
enthusiastic audience wished to demonstrate its admiration for the com- 
poser of / due Foscari. Being called for repeatedly and vociferously, he 
appeared twice on the stage amid the most cordial, loud and unanimous 
applause. 

Muzio heard about this directly from Verdi, and was delighted. 
' Mercadante, Pacini and Battista will gnaw their fingers in jealous 
rage,' he told Barezzi. 'He says also that the journalists are all 
hostile to him, as in other places.' Among the singers who shared 
Verdi's triumph with / due Foscari was Anna Bishop, the runaway 
wife of the composer of 'Home, sweet Home', already referred to in 
Muzio's letter of 21st April. But because he did not want her in 
Alzira, Madame Bishop became Verdi's bitter enemy. 

Anna Riviere had been born in London on 9th January 1810, the 
eldest daughter among the twelve children of a drawing master, 
Daniel Valentine Riviere. She had piano lessons from Moscheles and 
singing lessons from Henry Bishop, and on 12th July 1824 was 
elected a foundation student at the Royal Academy of Music, where 
in the summer of the following year she won a pencil case as a prize 
for composition. She sang at a students' concert in St James's Palace 
on 11th June 1828, in the presence of the king, and made her public 
debut at a Concert of Ancient Music in the 'New Rooms', Hanover 
Square, on 20th April 1831. She married Henry Bishop on 9th July 
of the same year, less than three months after her debut and less than 
one month after the death of Bishop's first wife. In the years that 
followed she became a well-known singer, principally of classical 
music, in London and the provinces, until she was induced to turn 
her attention to the Italian school by Nicholas Bochsa, the composer 
and harp player. This extraordinary character had been professor of 



136 THE MAN VERDI 

the harp and general secretary of the Royal Academy of Music from 
1822 until he was suspended in February 1826, on the discovery that 
he was wanted for forgeries on a grand scale, committed in France 
some ten years earlier. At the end of March 1817 he had decamped 
with the box-office receipts and all the valuable furs deposited in the 
cloakroom, while a concert audience was waiting for his appearance 
on the platform. Investigations showed that he had obtained money 
and goods to the value of 760,000 francs by forging the signatures of 
Mehul, Boieldieu, Berton, the Duke of Wellington and others, and 
on 17th February 1818 the Court of Assize in Paris condemned him 
in contumacy to twelve years' hard labour, to be branded with the 
letters T. F. and to be fined 4,000 francs. Meanwhile he had begun a 
new life in London, committing bigamy by marrying Amy Wilson, 
sister of the famous prostitute Harriette Wilson, whose memoirs are 
well known. Bochsa was bankrupt by 1824, and eventually settled 
with his creditors by paying them sevenpence in the pound. He and 
Anna Bishop went on a provincial tour in the spring of 1839 and on 
their return she won a great success at a benefit concert in operatic 
costume, arranged by Bochsa, at Her Majesty's Theatre, in competi- 
tion with artists of the calibre of Grisi, Viardot-Garcia, Persiani, 
Rubini, Tamburini and Lablache. A month later Bochsa and Madame 
Bishop eloped to the Continent and, as Richard Northcott puts it, 
'from that time to his death, she took no further interest in Bishop 
beyond occasionally singing his " Home, sweet Home" V The deplor- 
able couple made themselves known in half Europe by concerts at 
which Anna sang Italian operatic arias in costume and Bochsa 
provided interludes on the harp. The list of his compositions makes 
fearsome reading, including : Band March, in imitation of a military 
band at a distance; Caledonian Fantasie for the harp, with variations 
on 'Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled' ; Grand Military Concerto for the 
harp, with accompaniments for an orchestra) Grand Polish Cavalry 
March; Tartar Divertimento; Mexican March; and Souvenir de 
Shakespeare, a Dramatic Fantasia for the Harp, in which is introduced 
some of the music in Macbeth and Hamlet, and the favourite Airs, 
'My Mother had a Maid called Barbara', 'Where the Bee sucks', 
'Blow, blow, thou wintry wind', etc. Carefully avoiding France, 
Bochsa and Madame Bishop made their way to Hamburg, where 
two concerts were given. Then on to Copenhagen in October. The 
Biography of Madame Anna Bishop, containing the details of her 
Professional Tour in England, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Russia, 
Tartary, Moldavia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Havana, Mexico, 
America, and California, published at Sydney in 1855, is obviously 
'inspired' and designed to attract attention on her first arrival in 
Australia in that year; it is probably highly unreliable. Only a 

1 The Life of Sir Henry R. Bishop (1920). 



MUZIO'S VERDI 137 

practised confidence trickster like Bochsa would have dared lay on 
the colour so thickly. At Copenhagen in 1839: 

The Queen of Denmark was so fond of Anna that she not only invited 
her to dine at the Royal Palace every Sunday, but two or three times a 
week visited our cantatrice at her own house, and listened to her singing 
for hours together. Before Anna left Copenhagen, the king presented her 
with a magnificent diamond brooch, as a token of the pleasure her singing 
had afforded him. 

From Copenhagen she passed on to Gothenburg and Orebro, and 
arrived at Stockholm in January 1840, where she eclipsed Jenny Lind 
and packed the theatre every evening at tripled prices. At every 
performance Queen Caroline sent her chamberlain several times with 
her compliments, and the Prince Royal, Oscar, never missed one of 
her concerts. On the morning she left Stockholm all the ministers and 
ambassadors assembled at her house to pay their respects, the Count 
de Rosen, sent by the king, conducted her to her carriage, and the 
Countess Tobey threw over her shoulders a mantle of superb ermine. 
At the University of Uppsala she was serenaded by 600 students. At 
St Petersburg in May 1840 she lived in the palace of Baron Chabot, 
with nine reception rooms, where she gave a private party every 
Wednesday, at which the imperial family, the Russian ministers, the 
foreign ambassadors and the whole court assembled. Then on again 
to Dorpat, Riga, Mitau and Moscow. In June 1841 she was at 
Nijny-Novgorod, singing to audiences of Chinese, Turks, Circassians, 
Cossacks and Arabs, gathered for the annual fair. Here she met the 
last king of the Georgians, 'who, in rapture with her beautiful 
singing, sent to her, by several of his dwarfs, presents of sweetmeats 
and a rich bracelet of turquoises'. Thence to Kazan, the capital of 
Tartary. Anna was always ready to surprise the natives by bursting 
into song in their own language; the Scandinavian tongues, Russian, 
Hungarian, all came alike to her; at Kazan she sang in the Tartar 
language. On she went, to Odessa, Yassy, Lemberg, Cracow, where 
Countess Potoski built a small theatre in her palace for the sole 
purpose of hearing Anna sing, to Briinn and Vienna in March 1842, 
with private concerts for the emperor and Metternich, to Pressburg, 
with superb illuminations and a serenade arranged by Prince Ester- 
hazy and with the hospitality of the Bishop of Raab, then on to 
Budapest and Ofen, then Vienna again and Munich, where the King 
of Bavaria wrote the programme of her first concert with his own 
hand, and finally Italy, which hailed her at Verona in January 1843 
as 'La Restoratrice del Vero Canto'. Appearances at Padua, Venice, 
Florence and Rome led her to Naples, where at the express desire of 
the King of the Two Sicilies she was engaged as prima donna assoluta 
of the San Carlo and Fondo theatres. Anna Bishop sang at Naples 



138 THE MAN VERDI 

for twenty-seven consecutive months, appearing 327 times in twenty 
operas, including thirty-six appearances in Verdi's / due Foscari. 

Composers, it seems, were less enthusiastic than kings, queens and 
ambassadors; Verdi refused to have her in his new opera, and 
Donizetti, two years earlier, had rejected her equally emphatically: 
'No, for Christ's sake, not la Bishop! Are you pulling my leg?' 
In a letter to Antonio Tosi, editor of the Rivista di Roma, written 
on 15th July, a few days after the rehearsals for Alzira began, Verdi 
expressed confidence that he had won the favour of the Neapolitan 
public, but charged Madame Bishop with bribery of the press: 'I 
believe the newspapers will say every possible bad thing about it, all 
the more as la Bishop has now increased her monthly payments to 
those gentlemen, because I don't want her in my opera.' x It seems 
certain that we can insert her name in a blank space left when another 
letter, to Giuseppina Appiani, was published. 2 This was written on 
13th August, the day after the deferred first performance of the opera: 

Thank Heaven this too is over: Alzira is staged. These Neapolitans are 
ferocious, but they applauded. [La Bishopl had prepared for me a party 
which would have liked to force the downfall of this poor creature. But, 
in spite of that, the opera will stay in the repertory and, what is more 
important, go on tour like its sister operas. 

Verdi had not yet learned that a fairly cordial reception on the first 
night, with all the interest aroused by the composer's presence in the 
theatre, was no guarantee that the opera would have enduring success. 
Alzira was not to stay in the repertory, nor did it go on tour like its 
sister operas. In the course of a long article Vincenzo Torelli, in his 
Neapolitan paper V Omnibus, described how the indifferent sinfonia 
was exaggeratedly applauded by Verdi's supporters and thus from the 
beginning hostility was aroused in other sections of the audience. Only 
the cabalettas of the principal arias, magnificently sung by Eugenia 
Tadolini, by Fraschini and Coletti, seem to have aroused enthusiasm. 
The rest was comparatively coolly received. There was laboured 
applause, and forced calls for the singers and composer. 'We hear that 
some learned person had told Verdi to avoid choruses, elaborate scor- 
ing and concerted numbers, because they are not liked at Naples. Poor 
Verdi! How deceived he was! ' Four other performances of the opera 
were given, during which hisses and other signs of disapproval 
increased in frequency and intensity, and Toreili expressed the hope 
that the 'bitter lesson' given to the composer by the Neapolitans 
would have some effect. He suggested that Verdi was writing too 
much and too quickly: 'No human talent is capable of producing 
two or three grand operas a year.' This was not bad advice. 

1 Franco Schlitzer, Mondo teatrale delVottocento, p. 135. 

2 A. M. Cornelio, Per la storia (Pistoia, 1904), p. 29. 



MUZIO'S VERDI 139 

It cannot be proved that Torelli was in the pay of Madame Bishop, 
though it must be said that other, non-Neapolitan, writers gave more 
favourable accounts of Alzira and its reception. And Torelli was 
certainly not much liked, or trusted. Muzio, in one of his letters from 
Milan, during Verdi's absence at Naples, describes how he met 
Maffei, who was furious with Torelli for having printed one of his 
private letters in the Omnibus. According to Maffei, Torelli was 
'worse than Regli', 'a trashy writer', a journalist who had always 
run down Verdi without knowing anything about his works, ' one of 
those whom the Signor Maestro should look down upon from on 
high, grovelling in the dust'. Muzio also refers to an article attacking 
Torelli by the Neapolitan composer Vinzenzo Capecelatro, a 
passionate admirer of Verdi and his music, though unfortunately 
afflicted with the Evil Eye. 

It seems from a later letter to Flauto * that Verdi was disgusted with 
the running commentary on his actions supplied by the Neapolitan 
journalists. When he appeared in a cafe, or was seen on the balcony 
of Mme Tadolini's apartments, or wore brown shoes rather than 
black, it was reported in the papers, along with 'a thousand other 
trifles unworthy, certainly, of a serious public or a great city'. He 
left Naples before the last performance of Alzira on 21st August, at 
which Mme Tadolini's cavatina was applauded and almost nothing 
else, according to the Omnibus. At this time the following doggerel 
verses 2 were making the rounds of the Neapolitan cafes : 

Tu in prima scrivesti il Nabucco 
E gli astanti rimaser di stucco, 
/ Lombardi scrivesti in appresso 
Si resto press'a poco lo stesso; 
Tu per terzo scrivesti gli Ernani 
E cesso quello batter di mani, 
/ due Foscari in Roma scrivesti, 
Ti ricordi che fiasco facesti? 
A Milano Giovanna fu data, 
E ben due volte fu spenta e bruciata; 
A San Carlo scrivesti V Alzira 
E il Sebeto, sbuffando dall'ira, 
Cosi disse : Chi e mai lo sfrontato 
Che a San Carlo V Alzira ha portato? 
Forse e ignota all'ardito mortale 
Che a San Carlo si fa La Vestale, 
Che a San Carlo vi scrive Pacini, 
Che rapl coi suoi canti Bellini? 
Che credea con barba e mustacci 

1 Copialettere, p. 58. 

2 Schlitzer, op. cit., pp. 137-8. Manuscript copy in the Biblioteca di Storia moderna 
e contemporanea, Rome. 



140 THE MAN VERDI 

Ritirarsi cosl dagli impacci? 
A San Carlo si vuol melodia, 
Regolata con grande armonia. 
Ci vuol canto che sia declamato, 
Non cantaccio da perdervi il fiato 
E costringer fin anche a stonare, 
Ma Fraschini che mai pote fare? 
Qui si tacque il Sebeto, ed accenna 
Che si rechi all'istante una penna. 
A punir l'enorme delitto 
Ipso facto eman6 quest'editto : 
' Quel colore cotanto gradito 
Da' nostr'occhi sia tosto bandito, 
Trovi il verde se alcuno lo brama 
Sotto il gel del Vascello di Gama' 

It is interesting that, of the three composers of the Neapolitan school 
whom Muzio had expected to 'gnaw their fingers in jealous rage', 
Pacini is actually mentioned in these verses, while Mercadante was 
the author of the two operas named, La Vestale and // Vascello di 
Gama, in the face of which Verdi had dared to appear at the San 
Carlo theatre with Alzira. II Vascello di Gama had been written for 
Anna Bishop and produced, without much success, in the previous 
March. It seems not improbable that Verdi knew these verses, and 
was referring to them when he replied to Flauto in 1846: 'Why 
should I be annoyed with the Neapolitans, and the Neapolitans with 
me? Do they lack colours in the spectrum, that they have need of 
Verdi ? ' The pun (verde = green) used here and in the penultimate fine 
of the poem had appeared already in Torelli's Omnibus in 1841, in 
his account of the failure of Oberto at the San Carlo. 

The subsequent career of Anna Bishop is worth an additional 
paragraph. Her biographer of 1855 tells us that she so charmed the 
Pope by 'a sacred air of Palestrina' that he conferred on her, by 
the hands of Cardinal Zacchia, the Ancient and Noble Order of 
Santa Cecilia, with a cross of precious stones. After singing in La 
Sonnambula at Palermo, in the presence of the sovereigns of Russia 
and Naples, she returned to England, by way of Switzerland and 
Belgium, giving concerts everywhere. She appeared at Drury Lane in 
Balfe's Maid of Artois on 8th October, and in Louis Lavenu's Loretta 
on 9th November 1846. She delighted the provinces with 'her 
favourite last scene from UElisir d'amore, composed for her by 
Donizetti at Naples' — a thumping lie! Then across the Atlantic, with 
concerts at New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, 
Richmond, Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, New Orleans: 

Magnificent bouquets, corbeilles of the richest flowers, and verses were 
nightly thrown at her feet, and even hats, gloves, and caps found their way 



MUZIO'S VERDI 141 

on the stage as tokens of the boisterous admiration of the pit and galleries. 
It is said that Anna Bishop has a curious collection of such oddities, which 
she intends taking with her to Europe, as tokens from the people, not to 
be slighted. 

In 1849 she found Mexico a true El Dorado and in the following years 
the 'fair cantatrice' or 'wandering nightingale' seems to have sung 
at almost every city in North America. On 1st October 1855 she 
sailed from San Francisco for Australia. Bochsa died of dropsy in 
Sydney on 6th January 1856, and Anna recrossed the Pacific for a 
tour of Chile, the Argentine and Brazil, before returning to New York 
where she married Martin Schultz, a diamond merchant. She spent a 
year in England and then returned to North America. From Cali- 
fornia she sailed to the Sandwich Islands. On 18th February 1866 she 
left Honolulu for Hong Kong in the barque Libelle (Captain Tobias) 
and was wrecked on a coral reef near Wake Island, losing all her 
clothes, jewellery and music. After being marooned for three weeks 
on an uninhabited, waterless island, living on provisions salvaged 
from the wreck, the survivors made their way in an open boat to the 
Ladrone Islands, 1,400 miles away. Anna and Schultz landed on 
Guam on 8th April and thence made their way to Manila, where the 
interrupted routine of concert-giving was resumed. Then to Amoy, 
Hong Kong, Singapore and Calcutta, where she gave sixteen concerts 
before undertaking a tremendous tour of India (Jamalpur, Dinapore, 
Benares, Allahabad, Cawnpore, Lucknow, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, 
Simla, Mussoorie, Bombay, Madras, Ceylon). She returned to New 
York, via Australia and England. She appeared in the Tabernacle at 
Salt Lake City, at the special invitation of Brigham Young, on 4th 
July 1873. After another tour of Australia she spent a year in South 
Africa, travelling to places like Kimberley by rough roads and across 
or through unbridged rivers. At the end of 1876 she was in England 
again, where she stayed for three years, avoiding publicity and musical 
engagements, before returning to New York. She made her last public 
appearance there on 20th April 1883 and died of apoplexy at 1443 
Fourth Avenue on 19th March 1884. To quote Northcott again: 
'Schultz soon afterwards degenerated into a lodging-house tramp, 
and died of typhus in Riverside Hospital, New York.' 

After Alzira at Naples Verdi's next engagement was the composi- 
tion ofAttila, for Venice, early in 1846. For the libretto of this opera 
he reverted to Temistocle Solera, author of the words of Nabucco, 
I Lombardi and Giovanna d'Arco. This was another interesting 
character. Born at Ferrara in 1817, he had been sent to school in 
Vienna, by order of the emperor, after his father had been con- 
demned to imprisonment in the Spielberg for revolutionary activities. 
One day the young Solera climbed over the wall of his Viennese 
boarding-school, sold his school uniform and got himself a job as 



142 THE MAN VERDI 

riding master, poet and general factotum in a travelling circus. After 
a time he was tracked down in Hungary by the police and returned 
to Vienna. He was then sent to complete his education in the Collegio 
Longone at Milan. Soon he made a name for himself as poet and 
composer. A volume of Manzonian verses, I miei primi canti, 
appeared in 1837. Two years later a cantata, La melodia, words and 
music by Solera, was performed at La Scala, and he was always 
ready to make himself useful to Merelli, the impresario, as when the 
libretto of Verdi's Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio needed revision. 
An opera of his own, Ildegonda, was produced at La Scala in March 
1840, and was followed by II Contadino d'Agliate in October 1841. 
Solera, a bull-necked, Herculean figure, incongruously flourishing a 
monocle, was a thorough Bohemian, lazy and not too honest. He 
published music by Antonio Bazzini as his own. When Verdi's 
Nabucco was performed in Paris it was found that Solera had made 
unauthorized use of a French drama, and in the Venetian paper 77 
Gondolier e for 15th March 1843 charges of plagiarism, citing chapter 
and verse, were brought by Giulio Pulle against the author of I 
Lombardi. But Solera was a fluent versifier. The Gazzetta Privilegiata 
di Milano for 20th June 1844 includes an account of his appearance 
at Fiume in the previous month, in a programme of improvised 
poems on themes drawn from an urn, with musical intermezzos by 
the garrison band. Solera, 'kindled wholly by the sacred Apollonian 
flame', improvised to a piano accompaniment on subjects like 'The 
Nineteenth Century', 'The Defeat of the Tartars on the Field of 
Grobnico', 'Count Niklos Zrinyi at the Castle of Sziget' and 'The 
Eclipse of 1842', to the universal acclamations of the audience. 
Probably he was never quite sure whether the spate of words and 
ideas that came into his head were his own or other people's. 

Muzio to Barezzi, 13th August 1845: 

The Signor Maestro has written to Solera that he is coming to Milan 
expressly to collect the libretto of Attila, out of which he wants to make 
his most beautiful opera; but that lazy hound of a poet hasn't done a thing. 
I have told Cav. Maffei and Toccagni, and they will make him do some 
work, and he has promised that he will keep at it day and night and that 
he will finish it before the Signor Maestro arrives. This morning at eleven 
o'clock he was still in bed, so it seems that he is not working. 

18th August: 1 

Solera has almost finished the libretto and by Thursday morning will 
have prepared a fair copy; he is very pleased and has told me that it is 
beautiful, and that those who have heard it like it very much indeed. And 
that's good news. 

1 Misdated 'September' in Garibaldi's book, p. 217. The letter that follows it on 
p. 220 is also misdated, by Muzio or by Garibaldi, 'September' instead of 'August'. 



MUZIO'S VERDI 143 

26th August: x 

The Signor Maestro is with us after an excellent journey. ... He is 
getting up now, after having rested for a while, for there was no lack of the 
usual annoyances. He was at Milan at half past eight. 

We shall come soon to Busseto, but he doesn't wish to fix the day, 
because when he does so he is never able to keep his promise. So we shall 
arrive out of the blue, just when we are least expected. Have the bed got 
ready, and writing materials, etc. 

The Signor Maestro advises me to ask you to find a piano for me, 
because he wants to write Attila and if I waste the morning the rest of the 
day goes by with nothing done: the wife of the police magistrate, for 
instance, might help me, and a word of yours would certainly settle this 
for me; do it if you can and rest assured of my gratitude. 

Tomorrow / due Foscari. Merelli sent to ask the Signor Maestro to 
attend the dress rehearsal but he replied with a flat 'No'. For it doesn't 
matter to him whether it's a fiasco or not, since the opera has been success- 
ful and is successful in all the other theatres. 

Not much work was done by Verdi during six weeks of boredom 
at Busseto. 'This blessed, blessed Busseto!' he wrote to Giuseppina 
Appiani on 9th September. 'What beauty! What elegance! What a 
place! What society! I am enchanted and I don't know how I shall 
be able to tear myself away!!!!!! I found my father and mother in 
excellent health and happier than I am, certainly. But what am I 
saying? Today is a holiday and I don't want to talk of melancholy 
things. So let's be cheerful. As soon as I can I shall come to Milan.' 
Three days later, in a letter to Andrea Maffei, 2 he was comparing 
Busseto and Naples: 'Where one is better off, or worse off, I don't 
know. I know that Naples is very beautiful, that it has an enchanting 
sky, salubrious air, surroundings like Paradise — and that's all I 
know. . . . Here nothing happens — nothing, nothing; one eats, one 
drinks, and one sleeps twenty-five hours a day: I do so too.' At 
Busseto, too, there were gossiping tongues, as elsewhere, but he paid 
them no attention. In a postscript he added: 'Yesterday I began 
writing Attila and from now on I shall sleep only twenty-four hours 
a day, instead of twenty-five.' But little progress was made. In the 
second week of October Verdi and Muzio were back at Milan. 

In Muzio's letters we have accounts of everything that went on at 
Milan in these years, from the introduction of gas lighting in the 
streets to the downfall of Louis Tour, who advertised himself as the 
champion wrestler of Europe and was hurled to the ground by a 
brawny Milanese porter and narrowly escaped being lynched by the 
crowd: 'If you'd only seen it! Hardly was he on the ground before 
benches, chairs, tables and stones flew through the air after him.' 

1 Misdated 'July' in Garibaldi's book, p. 211. 

2 G. B. Emert, 'Due autograft" inediti di Giuseppe Verdi' (Trentino, June 1941). 



144 THE MAN VERDI 

Then there was the surprising flight of the aeronaut Arbon: 'The 
peasants to whom he had given the balloon to hold, feeling some 
resistance, let it go freely up into the air and, who knows, perhaps 
they won't find it again, because it was without any ballast and who 
knows where the Devil will have carried it.' The reputed former 
protector of the Countess Samoyloff, the tyrannical Czar Nicholas I, 
was at Milan in October 1845 and attended performances of / due 
Foscari; there were illuminations, bands constantly playing, proces- 
sions and a magnificent mock battle lasting five hours. At one 
performance of / due Foscari attended by the Czar, the third act was 
performed before the second. Muzio reports other instances of 
Merelli's misdeeds: 

La Sonnambula was performed badly at La Scala as usual. I don't 
believe there has ever been an occasion before when such an eminently 
Italian opera as La Sonnambula has been performed by an Englishwoman 
(la Birche), a German (la Stradiot) and a Frenchman (Boquet); to sing 
Italian operas properly fine singers are needed who are Italian either by 
birth or by long musical education. 

Recent events at Naples were not forgotten, and no opportunity was 
lost for a dig at Verdi's adversaries : 

At Naples / due Foscari has been put on again, with la Gabussi. The 
part of Lucrezia, which was first sung by la Bishop, has, they write, been 
given unexpected prominence. That's according to the Figaro. 

At the end of October Muzio transcribed with immense satisfaction 
an article by Enrico Montazio in the Rivista di Firenze, ridiculing 
Pacini and his Lorenzino de' Medici, and apostrophizing the Signor 
Maestro as 'that young composer whom you affect to despise, and 
whom you profoundly envy for his glory and your own malice, that 
young composer who in Ernani, Nabucco, I Lombardi, I due Foscari, 
Giovanna d'Arco, etc., has shown more genius and inspiration than 
all the rest of you put together, you arid distorters of counterpoint! 
Verdi, in short, whom, fuming and snorting, you strive unsuccess- 
fully to imitate, Verdi, who, sheltering under his youthful pinions the 
abandoned Muse of Bellini, asked her the secret of her power and 
was told in reply "The heart"'. 
There was some surprising news on 19th November: 

The Countess Samoyloff is getting married; her future husband is a 
singer, a certain Peri, who took the part of Carlo in Ernani at Lecco. They 
have left for Paris, where they will settle down. However, she can't marry 
without the authorization of the Emperor of All the Russias, and as soon 
as she has got it they will marry. They are selling by auction at Milan all 
the furniture of her house ; she is selling everything and doesn't wish to see 
Milan again. She has made a present of 500,000 francs to Signor Peri, and 



MUZIO'S VERDI 145 

in case they are unable to reach an understanding, she is obliged to pay 
over to him 100,000 francs a year. 

La Frezzolini has finally separated from the antipathetic Poggi. It is 
said that he left her in the hope of being united once and for all with the 
Countess Samoyloff, and instead of that it is his turn to be given the cold 
shoulder. The Signor Maestro is very angry with Poggi, because when he 
was at Naples he wrote twice to la Frezzolini and Poggi opened the letters 
and kept them. This morning la Frezzolini wrote this to him : ' With fear 
I prepare myself to write to you for the third time, not having had a reply 
to the other two letters I wrote to you at Naples.' The Maestro told me he 
has replied that she should reclaim the two letters from her husband. 

Only in Italy could the last few sentences of this passage have been 
made the basis of a supposed love affair between Verdi and Erminia 
Frezzolini. 

When Verdi, in a letter already quoted, 1 wrote from Venice on 
22nd December 1845 asking Giuseppina Appiani for news of Pedroni 
and of 'Madame Perey', he was referring, of course, to the Countess 
Samoyloff. A further comment on her marriage is found in a letter 
of the Marquess d'Azeglio, from Turin, 1st January 1846: 2 

The Countess Samoyloff is here, now Mme Perrin, seeing that she has 
married M. Perrin, a bass singer at Como, or Lugo, or somewhere, who, 
having first assured himself of an income of 30,000 francs, has thrown all 
the dogs out of the window, twisted the necks of all the birds and made 
her sell everything she had at Milan. She has lost all her property in Russia 
by this marriage. 

Nobody seems certain of even the name of the countess's second 
husband, Peri, Pery, Perey or Perrin, where he came from, or 
where he went. He did not last long, and within a year or so she was 
back at Milan. 

The letters to Antonio Barezzi from this winter depict two touching 
scenes: the first shows Verdi in bed with rheumatism, and Muzio 
'continually' massaging him, so that he had almost no time for 
writing letters; the second shows Verdi providing Muzio, who had 
been shivering in his summer clothes, with a complete new outfit: 
' So now I shan't feel the rigours of the cold. You can't imagine how 
much he loves me, and how concerned he is about me.' After that 
there is a gap of four months in the published volume of Muzio's 
letters, during most of which time Verdi was at Venice. When he went 
there hardly anything ofAttila had been composed. Alterations in the 
fourth act of the libretto had to be entrusted to Piave, as Solera had 
transferred himself and his wife, the singer Teresa Rosmini, to 
Spain, whence he lamented the 'bitter pill' of Piave's revisions, 
which he had been condemned to swallow. Solera was then hoping 

^eep. 113. 

2 Souvenirs Historiques de la Marquise Constance d'Azeglio nee Alfieri (Turin, 1884). 



146 THE MAN VERDI 

for an advantageous contract for himself and his wife in Madrid. 
Stories of attempted assassinations, duels and romantic adventures 
involving Queen Isabella are probably later inventions. To Verdi he 
wrote of ' daily rebellions, shootings and, what is worse, an impre- 
sario who doesn't pay up. And, to increase my annoyances, letters 
from Milanese creditors, the most dogged of which I have directed 
to you'. Solera henceforth was replaced by the pliant and docile 
Piave, a turn of events to which the former could never reconcile 
himself. In later years he used to explain what a treasure Verdi had 
lost in the librettist of Nabucco, I Lombardi, Giovanna d'Arco and 
Attila. Eugenio Checchi heard from Solera verbal torrents in praise 
of Verdi's genius and in complaint about the difficulties of collabora- 
tion with him, and the quarrels arising therefrom: 'And it was always 
Verdi's fault, for, modesty apart, he will never find a librettist like me 
as long as he fives. He's a great composer, I don't deny it, but as 
weak as a woman; so weak as to accept librettos from that ass of a 
Piave — yes, gentlemen, that ass, I won't retract the word — and from 
that muddler, Salvatore Cammarano, who for having written the 
libretto of // Trovatore deserves a life sentence to the galleys, at least 
preceded by a taste of the rope's end.' 1 Solera wrote other librettos, 
and is supposed to have become a secret service agent for Napoleon 
III and for Cavour, to have been entrusted with the suppression of 
brigandage in the Basilicata and to have reorganized the Egyptian 
police, but the only role he played henceforth in Verdi's life was as 
a writer of begging letters. At one time he was reduced to travelling 
on foot from Bologna to Florence in the middle of winter, in his thin 
summer clothes; later still he was seen, still sporting his monocle, 
earning a pittance as water-carrier at Leghorn. The Countess Maffei 
organized a fund to rescue him from destitution and he set up as an 
antique dealer at Florence. But in 1876 he was down and out in 
London; on 15th July of that year he wrote from 9 Glasshouse Street 
to a friend: 'The fatal words that Dante saw written on the gates of 
Hell stand now before my eyes on all the walls of London.' 2 He 
returned to Milan only to die, on Easter Sunday 1878. 

The composition of Attila at Venice brought about, or coincided 
with, the recurrence, in much more serious form, of Verdi's illness. 
At first he complained of rheumatism, and then early in January 
1846 he was prostrated by gastric fever. He is generally stated to have 
been ill for three weeks, on the evidence of a letter to the Countess 
Maffei on 21st January, saying that he had then just got up, in a 
very weak state, after twenty days in bed, which had seemed to him 
like twenty centuries. But he had a relapse in the following month. A 

1 Eugenio Checchi, 'Librettisti e Libretti di Giuseppe Verdi' (Nuova Antologia, 16th 
Oct. 1913). 

2 Autograph letter in the Piancastelli Collection, Biblioteca Comunale, Forli. 




Napoleone Moriani 



MUZIO'S VERDI 147 

letter to Francesco Lucca of 24th February says: 'I have been in bed 
for five days, and they have bled me.' x He afterwards wrote that he 
had completed Attila 'in bed, in an almost dying condition'. The 
opera was produced, with great success, on 17th March. Through 
Lucca, Verdi had arranged to go to London, to write a new opera for 
Benjamin Lumley, director of Her Majesty's Theatre. Two days after 
the first performance of Attila the composer wrote to a friend, Count 
Opprandino Arrivabene, that an obstinate gastric fever had kept him 
in bed for almost two months: 'Now I am better, but convalescence 
is slow and I don't know whether I shall be able to write the opera for 
London. The doctors absolutely forbid it, but I haven't decided 
anything yet.' 2 In the end he had to give up the idea for this year, and 
provided Lumley, through Lucca, with medical certificates from 
doctors at Venice and Milan, both of whom declared on oath that 
Verdi's very life would be endangered by the journey to England and 
the exertions involved in the composition and production of another 
opera. In the face of all this evidence, suggestions that Verdi was not 
honestly justified in his action seem impertinent. 

Of course Lumley did not entirely believe him, and the Neapolitan 
comedy of the previous year was resumed. Lumley could not offer, 
as Flauto had been able to do, 'the excitability of Vesuvius' as an aid 
to recovery; on the contrary, he suggested that the 'less exciting' air 
of London would be beneficial, and followed this up with the 
announcement of the great success of / Lombardi at his theatre, in 
the presence of the queen-dowager and the princes and princesses of 
the blood royal — news he hoped would be a powerful antidote, 
available in larger doses in London, to the composer's indisposition. 
Verdi replied that natural curiosity, his self-esteem and his own 
interests all impelled him to fulfil this contract, but the state of his 
health forbade it. He had need of a complete rest. 
Muzio to Barezzi, 23rd March 1846: 

The Signor Maestro arrived from Venice at six o'clock yesterday 
evening. He suffered no harm from the journey. He has lost much weight 
through the illness, but his eyes are very bright and his complexion rather 
good. Rest will finally set him to rights. 

He will write on Wednesday, because today there's a continual coming 
and going of people, and he will send you the newspapers too. Attila has 
aroused real fanaticism; the Signor Maestro had every imaginable honour: 
wreaths, and a brass band with torches that accompanied him to his 
lodging, amid cheering crowds. 

Rossi's opera at La Scala was not liked. That's the twelfth fiasco. 

I can't write more because it's time to go to the post office. The Pirata 
tomorrow will announce that the doctors have ordered Maestro Verdi six 
months' rest, for which reason he will not go to London. 

1 Reproduced in facsimile in Musica d'Oggi, Jan. 1926, p. 17. 

2 Annibale Alberti, Verdi Intimo (Verona, 1931), in the introductory note, p. xxvii. 



148 THE MAN VERDI 

22nd April: 

Some private letters from London say that Prince Albert, husband of 
the Queen of England, wants to knight him as soon as he gets there, with 
the title of 'Master of the Royal Music', the said prince being a musician; 
a large pension goes with this knighthood. 

Undated: 

The Omnibus of Naples said: 'A Leipzig newspaper states that Verdi is 
dead; it is not true; he is well; perhaps they meant that his Attila is dead.' 
Regli told me he will reply to that ; we shall see if he does. 

For precisely six months, obeying his doctors' orders as scrupu- 
lously as he was accustomed to fulfil the terms of his business engage- 
ments, Verdi did absolutely nothing. It is a strange interlude in these 
'years in the galleys'. His friends rallied round him and five or six 
carriages were placed at his disposal. Often he went out for drives in 
the country, or took the new railway — the second constructed in 
Italy — from Milan to Monza, or went farther afield, to Cassano 
d'Adda, or Treviglio, for the day, returning for an evening meal and 
then going early to bed. He began to put on weight again. But he was 
not always in a good humour. The police magistrate of Busseto had 
commissioned Muzio to buy him a new flute, but had not sent the 
money to pay for it. Muzio was unable to find the money himself 
and afraid to ask Verdi, who had declared he did not wish to hear 
anything at all about music. Furthermore : ' I don't want to importune 
the Signor Maestro because, to tell you the truth, he is in a rage 
because he lent forty gold napoleons to one gentleman, twenty to 
another and five to a third, and they have all left Milan without saying 
a word to him about it.' 

In the Copialettere we find a prescription: 

Graz water. To be taken all through the spring. 

Dosage: Mix three-quarters of a glass of water with a quarter of a glass 
of boiling milk. For the first five days two glasses ; then for the next four 
days three glasses ; then four or five, according to taste. 

Exercise and perspiration. 

Muzio's letters show what a good patient Verdi was, and how much 
he benefited from this homely medicine, and the exercise and general 
relaxation. 

6th May: 

The Signor Maestro is well, and is now taking Graz water, and we go 
for long excursions outside the gates in the early morning, and we play at 
bowls to digest that water, and at five o'clock we go out to Poggio to dine 
with a select company. 



MUZIO'S VERDI 149 

14th May: 

The Graz water is doing the Signor Maestro a lot of good, and most of 
all those early morning walks and the fine games we play. After that, you 
know, he has a keen appetite and eats his lunch with enchanting gusto. If 
you saw him now you would be surprised; he is fat, flourishing, has 
acquired a fine rosy complexion, and thus is in better health than he was 
before. The waters at Recoaro will put the finishing touch to his recovery. 
And now, if he undertook the journey to London, it could not harm him. 
But I am out of luck ! Guess the proposal made by Lucca to the Signor 
Maestro ! If he will go to London, Lucca will send me together with him, 
and give me 2,000 francs, so that I may help him, and be beside him, and 
so that he may have with him someone he can trust to do everything 
necessary for him. If he decided to do that it would be grand ! But I have 
no hope at all of that. He says that he cannot go, and that it would be 
harmful; and rather than that he should suffer, I send to the devil all the 
money in the world, for he is dearer to me than the whole universe ! 

Verdi had been ordered by his Venetian doctor to take the waters at 
Recoaro later in the year, and he spent some weeks there with Andrea 
Maffei in July, rather bored, but undertaking long walks and donkey 
rides in the mountains, faithfully following medical advice. This was 
just after Maffei had separated from his wife. 

Apart from an occasional remark, such as that about the appoint- 
ment of an unpopular new official at the Milan Conservatorio : 
'Vienna's choice! A present from the Germans! ' politics hardly enter 
into Muzio's earlier correspondence. But the tremendous new impulse 
given to Italian patriotic hopes by the election in 1846 of the Liberal 
pope, Pius IX, is immediately apparent. After that scarcely a letter is 
without its rumours, reports and items of news taken from uncen- 
sored newspapers from Piedmont and elsewhere. In the official 
Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano nothing was allowed to appear that 
could be considered an encouragement to Italian national aspirations. 
Muzio, however, seems to have been quite unconcerned about the 
possibility of censorship of letters between Milan and Busseto. He 
quotes freely from all kinds of sources, tells of the effect of the 
amnesty for political prisoners in the Papal States, the reform and 
partial suppression of monasteries, reductions of taxes and food 
prices, partial secularization of schools and some government depart- 
ments, economies in the Vatican, proposals for the construction of 
railways and the institution of homes for poor children and the aged 
in some of the former monastery buildings. He reports the excited 
acclamations of the Roman crowds and their openly expressed fears 
that the new Pope would be poisoned by his enemies, the hangers-on 
of his predecessor, the Jesuits and the dispossessed friars. Verdi was 
no follower of Gioberti, who in his famous book, Ilprimato morale e 
civile degli italiani, published in exile in Brussels in 1842, had preached 



150 THE MAN VERDI 

the unification of Italy in the form of a federation of states under the 
presidency of the Pope; nevertheless, he saw that things seemed to be 
moving in the right direction and shared the general enthusiasm — 
afterwards to be followed by bitter disillusionment — for Pio Nono 
and his reforms. Verdi was invited from Rome to contribute a 
choral work to the celebrations planned for November 1846: 'He is 
very sorry not to be able to accept', Muzio told Barezzi, ' for he would 
very much like to join with his music in honouring a man who has 
deserved so well of society.' 

Muzio also reported the misgivings and hostility with which Pio 
Nono's measures of reform were viewed by the Austrians. Reinforce- 
ments were sent to Milan and there were daily military exercises as a 
show of strength; the Austrian ambassador was recalled from Rome: 
'This is equivalent to throwing the Pope into the arms of France.' 
Some disaffected cardinals and officials of the Papal States got in 
touch with Field Marshal Radetzky and Baron Torresani, the chief 
of police at Milan; but they were arrested and taken back to Rome. 

In / miei ricordi Massimo d'Azeglio recalls how the Austrians, 
before 1848, cleverly and successfully ruled Lombardy, as it were, 
through La Scala. If good entertainments were put on, if they could 
applaud the singing of Erminia Frezzolini, the dancing of Fanny 
Elssler or the feats of a troupe of American acrobats, the bulk of the 
Milanese public would not bother their heads with plots and revolu- 
tions. Thus the artistic decline of La Scala under Merelli's manage- 
ment was something that had to be taken seriously. Muzio heard 
from what he thought a dependable source that Baron Torresani 
himself was going to call on Verdi, to ask him to supervise personally 
the production of Attila at La Scala. It is not known whether Tor- 
resani did in fact approach the composer, but certainly other people 
did. Verdi went so far as to rehearse, unofficially, the principal singers 
at Eugenia Tadolini's house, and to write a new romanza for Moriani; 
but that was all: 'He says that as long as Merelli is there he will not 
set foot on the stage of La Scala.' 

The tendency of contemporary audiences to see patriotic allusions 
in certain features of Verdi's operas is well known. The great nostalgic 
chorus in Nabucco, 'Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate', sung by the 
Jewish exiles by the waters of Babylon, was felt as an expression of 
Italian yearning for liberty and independence. / Lombardi inevitably 
reminded the inhabitants of occupied Lombardy of their own warlike 
past. In Attila, which for a time had very great success throughout 
the peninsula, the line 'Avrai tu l'universo, resti l'ltalia a me!' is 
said to have aroused a frenzy of enthusiasm in Italian audiences of 
that period. Verdi and his librettist, the firebrand Solera, cannot 
have been unaware of these possibilities. Nevertheless, one wonders 
whether the effect of these things has not been exaggerated by the 



MUZIO'S VERDI 151 

biographers, whether the portrait of Verdi as Bard of the Risorgi- 
mento, composer of ' agitator's music', has not been overpainted. 
Accounts in contemporary newspapers do not mention, in these early 
years, patriotic outbursts such as Monaldi and his followers describe. 
It is at any rate curious that the experienced Torresani and his 
colleagues should, as a well-known anecdote tells, have smoothed 
the way for the production of / Lombardi at Milan, and then have 
tried to persuade Verdi to collaborate to secure a big success for 
Attila at La Scala. A letter from Muzio to Barezzi of 13th August 
1846 provides what seems to be the earliest documentary evidence of 
the use of Verdi's music for political demonstrations: 'At Bologna, 
at the announcement of the amnesty, the finale of Ernani, "O sommo 
Carlo!" was performed at the theatre; the name "Carlo" was 
changed to "Pio" and such was the enthusiasm that it was repeated 
three times; then when the words "Perdono a tutti" occurred, 
cheering burst out on all sides.' In this case, of course, it was only by 
chance that words were found in Ernani suitable for the celebration 
of the amnesty; Piave and Verdi could not have foreseen this. But 
in the following spring the young Angelo Mariani, after conducting 
Nabucco at the Teatro Carcano, Milan, was to be rebuked and 
threatened with arrest by Count Bolza, commissioner of police, 'for 
having given to Verdi's music an expression too evidently rebellious 
and hostile to the Imperial Government'. 

On 16th September 1846 a terrible fire broke out at Milan. Begin- 
ning in the court haylofts, it quickly spread to the houses and 
destroyed almost the whole suburb of Porta Orientale. The flames 
were visible as far away as Bergamo, and it was a week before they 
were finally extinguished. Muzio's description of this fire is quite 
priceless. The Signor Maestro and his disciple set out together to 
watch the operations of the fire brigade, but unfortunately they 
arrived on the scene just as the police were drawing a cordon round 
the onlookers, intending to compel them to work the pumps. Muzio 
and Verdi escaped on to the bastion of Porta Orientale, but then ran 
into a second cordon, coming from the opposite direction to catch 
the fugitives : 

The Signor Maestro acted in time and jumped down from the wall into 
the public gardens; I, however, was caught, while covering the Signor 
Maestro's retreat, and it was my lot to work at the pumps until six in the 
morning, when I was able to escape. I returned home covered in dirt and 
wet through, looking like an assassin. The Signor Maestro on seeing me 
began to laugh, which enraged me ; he is still laughing. But then, when he 
told me that he had had to remain in concealment in the public gardens for 
an hour and a half, I began to laugh a bit myself too. Now listen to this, 
which is even better. When the Signor Maestro jumped down from the 
wall of the public gardens, the gates were all shut and he couldn't get out. 



152 THE MAN VERDI 

As I told you, he stayed hidden for an hour and a half; when he saw that 
the people on the bastions had dispersed, he tried to climb over the wall, 
but he wasn't able to do so as the wall was higher than he, so that he had 
to wander round for more than an hour gathering stones and building 
them up to make a sort of ladder. He told me that he scrambled up and 
then fell down again, and his hands, which look as if they had been 
scratched by a cat, vouch for the truth of this story. 
This adventure has put him in the best humour imaginable. 

Muzio by this time had passed beyond the pupil stage. He was busy 
copying parts, transcribing scores and making piano reductions for 
both Lucca and Ricordi, helping to score ballet music for Fanny 
Elssler's performances at La Scala, and giving lessons in counterpoint 
to pupils of his own. The question now arose as to whether he was to 
compete for the position of municipal music-master at Busseto. 
Discussion of this gave rise to one of the most moving passages in all 
the letters to Barezzi: 

To tell you the truth I should be extremely sorry to have to abandon 
the Signor Maestro after he has given me a second life, and is always 
seeking to have me cut a good figure in society, among all the gentlemen, 
and is now contemplating something regarding me which, before he leaves 
Italy, will set the seal on all his benefactions and bring me to the attention 
of the whole musical world in launching me on my career. If only you 
could see us! I don't seem to be his pupil, but rather one of his friends. 
Always together at lunch, at the coffee house, playing together (for one 
hour only, from twelve to one); in short he goes nowhere without me 
accompanying him. At home he has procured a large table and we both 
write at the same table, and thus I always have the benefit of his advice. It 
is absolutely impossible for me to abandon him. Remember that he has 
done so much for me that I am afraid of being thought ungrateful. If it 
hadn't been for the Signor Maestro what should I be? A poor devil not 
knowing how to do anything. And now that he has taught me, and thanks 
to his teaching I can earn my living, honourably for now, and in time shall 
be able to do more — must I leave him? No, that I shall never, never do. 
Let them say what they like, I don't care; it's enough for me to be with 
my Maestro, and for him never to have to say to me: 'Now that I have 
taught you, you are abandoning me, you ingrate ! ' I should die of remorse 
if I gave him cause to say that to me. I have not yet spoken at length about 
this with the Signor Maestro ; I shall avoid speaking of it, but if he brings 
the matter up I shall tell him what I have written to you, and something 
more that the Signor Maestro's modesty does not permit me to say and to 
write. Please reflect well on all this, and you will see that I am right. Some 
will say : ' Your family's need is great ' ; I know that myself; but if they have 
had patience now for two years, I hope that they won't die of privation in 
the course of, at most, another year. Please tell these things to my mother, 
because I haven't the heart to write them to her. She is good, and they are 
all good people, and they will understand my reasons, and I hope they will 
find them sound, and won't blame me; I then, for my part, will do all in 



MUZIO'S VERDI 153 

my power to help my family, and be a credit to you, to my Maestro and 
my country. 

When the Mayor of Busseto invited Muzio to compete for the post, 
he declined, saying that he had no wish to be the cause of further 
dissension among his compatriots. 

It was time now for Verdi to return to the world of the theatre. His 
engagements had been complicated by his illness and the long period 
of inactivity prescribed by his doctors. The next opera was due to be 
written for Florence, but the choice of subject was dependent on the 
singers available. Maffei's / Masnadieri libretto was ready, and so 
Verdi first set to work on this, and nearly half the opera was composed 
before it was known that the tenor Fraschini would not be singing at 
Florence. Verdi then changed his plans and decided to write Macbeth, 
on a libretto by Piave, for the baritone Varesi at Florence, / Masna- 
dieri being set aside for completion later, for production in London. 

Muzio's letters reveal the highly strained relations between Verdi 
and Merelli at this time, and the parts played by Lucca and Torresani 
in the production of Attila at Milan. 

Merelli was called before the directors of the theatre, who wished to 
force him to give Attila, and this shameless creature said in public session 
that Attila is a bad opera, not in the least beautiful; however, in spite of 
his words, the directors compelled him to put it on as first opera of the 
season. Now, in hope of gain, he is doing all he can to get the Signor 
Maestro to conduct the rehearsals ; but the latter does well not to accept 
and to make them pay through the nose for it; after the Signor Maestro 
learned what Merelli said to the directors, he sent for Lucca, the proprietor 
of the score, and asked him as a favour to make Merelli pay 3,000 francs 
for Attila. 

Lucca went further. When Merelli approached him Lucca asked, not 
3,000, but 5,000 Austrian lire for the score — an unheard-of fee for a 
single season at one theatre. 'When Merelli heard this Jew's demand 
he went straight to the chief of police, who seems to have settled for 
a payment of 3,000 francs. . . . Merelli then tried to get the Signor 
Maestro to put it on the stage, but he replied with a very decisive 
"No" [un bel no grande grandeY 

Resumption of work brought a recurrence of Verdi's illness; but 
the new opera made rapid progress. 

14th December 1846: 

Today I shall take almost a whole act of Macbeth to the copyist. You 
can't imagine the originality and beauty of this music ; when the Signor 
Maestro lets me hear it I can't write for two or three hours, such is the 
enthusiasm it arouses in me. The Florentines are very fortunate to be the 
first to enjoy it! 

The Signor Maestro has been a bit out of sorts lately. He has had 



154 THE MAN VERDI 

intestinal pains which caused diarrhoea which gave him no peace ; he did 
not look at all well. Then he got melancholy ideas in his head, saying that 
he was going to have an illness worse than last year, and many other things 
that nearly made me cry. 

In God's good time the trouble ended, thanks to Dr Belcredi's treat- 
ment, and for three days now he has been well, and working. 

Don't distress yourself, dear Signor Antonio, and remember that the 
Signor Maestro has near him one who loves him very much, and who does 
for him all those services which mercenary people would not do. For the 
last two days we have been working from nine in the morning until 
midnight, except for lunch time, and perhaps it's a bit too much, but it'll 
only be for a few more days, and then we shall renew our walks and our 
little amusements. I am writing in his house at the same table and thus I 
have always the benefit of his advice and we get on together so well. 

19th December: 

Macbeth gets better and better : what sublime music ! I can tell you there 
are things that make one's hair stand on end! It costs him enormous 
effort to write this music, but he succeeds marvellously! ! The first two acts 
are almost finished. . . . Varesi, when he left for Rome, took with him the 
scene of the Banquet and the Apparition and he attracted wide attention 
in all Milan, saying that that was the most beautiful and most dramatic of 
all Verdi's music. At Piacenza he said even more. In all the towns he 
passed through — Parma, Bologna, Florence — he shouted like a madman 
to everyone that he had with him Verdi's most sublime music. 

27th December: 

Furore! Furore! Furore! Attila raised the roof, as the journalists say. 
Clamorous applause after every number and endless recalls, even without 
the encores they wanted, but which the management wouldn't allow. The 
theatre packed, so that it was impossible to move; they opened the doors 
at four o'clock and we had to wait until half past seven. La Tadolini and 
Moriani sang as no one else can sing. . . . Marini was unsurpassable, both 
as actor and singer. De Bassini sustained his role well. In short, all the 
singers and the opera aroused fanatical enthusiasm and uproar enough to 
make the Old and the New Testaments tremble. 

The mise en scene was wretched. The sun rose before the music indicated 
the sunrise. The sea, instead of being stormy and tempestuous, was calm 
and without a ripple. There were hermits without any huts; there were 
priests but no altar; in the banquet scene Attila gave a banquet without 
any lights . . . and when the storm came the sky remained serene and 
limpid as on the most beautiful spring day. Everyone (aloud and in their 
hearts) cursed Merelli for having treated Attila so badly. After the per- 
formance those going home past the Maestro's windows shouted: 'Evviva 
il Maestro ! ' If you had come here you would have been overjoyed. 

It was after Merelli' s maltreatment of Attila that Verdi wrote the well- 
known letter to Ricordi, approving the contract drawn up for 



MUZIO'S VERDI 155 

Macbeth at Florence, but insisting that the opera should never be 
allowed to be performed at La Scala. 

I have examples enough to persuade me that here they don't know how, 
or don't want, to put on operas, and especially my operas, as they should 
be put on. I cannot forget the execrable manner in which / Lombardi, 
Ernani, I due Foscari, etc., were produced. Another example I have before 
my eyes with Attila. I ask you yourself whether, in spite of a good company 
of singers, this opera could be staged worse than it is? 

Field Marshal Radetzky himself enjoyed a visit to La Scala, and 
heard Verdi's Attila. The old warrior, now over eighty, was well 
aware of the gathering revolutionary storm, though his warnings were 
not taken very seriously in Vienna. Remarkably vigorous for his 
years, he had some difficulty in getting on his horse, but once mounted 
he could stay in the saddle eight hours or so. The last of his four 
illegitimate children by Giuditta Meregalli, a Milanese laundry- 
woman, had been born in the previous year. Radetzky's correspon- 
dence with Giuditta, written in execrable Italian, has been published 
by the Italians, but his letters to his daughter Friederike are more 
interesting. 1 Even better than hearing an opera he liked watching a 
ballet: 'I lead my usual life; I stay at the Scala theatre until half past 
ten when Mme Elssler dances ; when she doesn't I go to bed at half 
past eight.' In a letter of 24th January 1847 he gives news of the 
former Countess Samoyloff: 

Mme Elssler caused a furore and earns well-deserved applause; Mme 
Tadolini does the same in Attila. That's all the news I can give you from 
here. Mme Samoyloff, who lives with her brother-in-law, is leaving on the 
29th for Paris. During her stay at Milan she only gave one single dinner 
party; she is becoming extremely corpulent and ageing very much. 

It is sad that even daily baths in asses' milk could not stay the 
passage of the years. 

In this January there was some talk of Antonio Barezzi himself 
coming to Milan. He was expected on the 27th and Muzio went to 
meet him at Porta Romana ; but the weather turned bad and Barezzi 
stayed at home. This caused quite an outburst from Verdi, faithfully 
recorded in one of Muzio' s letters : 

When I came home alone the Signor Maestro became furious because 
you hadn't come. Then this morning, when he received your letter and 
that from Giovannino, he said : ' They are people afraid of a bit of snow 
and ice. They are well, robust, strong, with stomachs of iron, and they are 
afraid of a bit of snow, while I ' — the Signor Maestro said — ' must go to 
Florence in a fortnight's time even if it rains thunderbolts, and cross the 
Apennines covered with snow, in danger of being buried in a landslide, as 
on my return from Rome. They enjoy themselves; I work from eight in 

1 Brief e des Feldmarschalls Radetzky an seine Tochter Friederike (Vienna, 1892). 
* F 



156 THE MAN VERDI 

the morning until twelve at night, and I consume my life in working. 
What a perfidious destiny is mine ! ' These and other things the Signor 
Maestro said — I can't remember them all. But I believe that what you 
haven't done you will do, and that you will come to see him at Florence. 

There was some further discussion of the possibility of Muzio's 
becoming municipal music master at Busseto, but, in the mood in 
which he was then, all that Verdi would say when consulted was: 
'Do what you like. I won't have anything to do with it.' 

Barezzi did go to Florence, with his son Giovannino, risking 
thunderbolts and landslides, and there he had a wonderful time. 

Before the Barezzis arrived, Muzio and Verdi were busy at Florence 
with the rehearsals, Muzio being entrusted with the preparation of 
Attila, which was to precede the new opera, while Verdi took endless 
pains to convey to the artists his ideas of the way Macbeth should be 
sung and acted. Outside the theatre the composer made many new 
friends. The Countess Maffei had procured for him from Manzoni 
a letter of introduction to the poet Giuseppe Giusti, and through 
Giusti he made the acquaintance of a group of Florentine intel- 
lectuals, including the Marquis Gino Capponi, Baron Bettino 
Ricasoli, the poet G. B. Niccolini, and the sculptors Lorenzo 
Bartolini and Giovanni Dupre. Verdi also, rather reluctantly, 
accepted an invitation to meet the easy-going Grand Duke, whom he 
found well acquainted with the whole story of his life, including the 
battle of Busseto. Early biographies,such as the text accompanying a 
lithograph published in 1845, 1 and B. Bermani's Schizzi sulla vita e 
sulk opere del Maestro Giuseppe Verdi, reprinted in 1846 from 
Ricordi's Gazzetta Musicale di Milano, had made Antonio Barezzi's 
services generally known, and on his arrival at Florence he was made 
much of by Verdi's admirers. Baron Ricasoli sent his carriage, and 
Barezzi was shown the sights of the city, the galleries and the museums. 
He was able to write home, describing how, after Macbeth, he left the 
Pergola theatre with Verdi, and they were accompanied back to their 
hotel, a mile away, by an enormous cheering crowd. Verdi himself 
chose the occasion of the publication of the vocal score of Macbeth 
to express publicly his gratitude to Antonio Barezzi: 

For a long time it has been in my mind to dedicate an opera to you, who 
have been to me a father, a benefactor and a friend. It is an obligation I 
ought to have fulfilled before now, and I should have done so if compelling 
circumstances had not prevented it. Here now is this Macbeth, which is 
dearer to me than all my other operas, and which I therefore deem more 
worthy of being presented to you. I offer it from my heart; accept it in the 

1 Reproduced in Gatti's Verdi nelle immagini, p. 185. Luzio (Carteggi, IV, p. 81) 
publishes a letter from Muzio to Giuseppe Demalde concerning this brief biography. 
Demalde supplied the materials for it; Luzio mistakenly believed that the letter referred 
to Demalde's own later Cenni biografici. See also Muzio's letter to Barezzi of 9th June 
1845. 



MUZIO'S VERDI 157 

same way, and let it bear witness to my eternal remembrance, and the 
gratitude and love of your most affectionate 

G. Verdi. 

In Baron Ricasoli and Gino Capponi, in Giusti and Niccolini, 
Verdi had come into touch with some of the principal political and 
literary leaders and agitators of the liberal and nationalistic move- 
ment in Tuscany. Giusti in Sanf Ambrogio, his poem about Milan 
under the Austrians, referred to a famous chorus from / Lombardi: 

Era un coro del Verdi; il coro a Dio 
La de' Lombardi miseri assetati ; 
Quello, O Signore, dal tetto natio, 
Che tanti petti ha scossi e inebriati. 

Macbeth, even though it did, like / Lombardi, include a chorus of 
exiles, which could be turned to patriotic use, was, in Giusti's opinion, 
a deviation from Verdi's true path. He wrote to the composer, advis- 
ing the abandonment of such foreign and fantastic subjects : 

You know that the chord of sorrow is that which finds the readiest 
echo in our breasts ; but sorrow assumes different characters, according to 
the time and the nature and condition of this or that nation. The kind of 
sorrow that fills now the minds of us Italians is the sorrow of a people that 
feels the need of a better destiny, the sorrow of one who has fallen and 
desires to rise, the sorrow of one who repents and awaits and longs for 
regeneration. Accompany, my Verdi, this high and solemn sorrow with 
your noble harmonies ; do what you can to nourish it, to strengthen it and 
direct it to its objective. 

Giusti's letter is well known; 1 Verdi's reply, of 27th March 1847, 
though it has been published, 2 is hardly known at all: 

My Dear Giusti, 

Thanks, a thousand thanks, for your most welcome letter. You have 
compensated me in part for the displeasure of not having been able to 
embrace you before leaving Florence. 

Yes, you put it very well : ' The chord of sorrow is that which finds the 
readiest echo in our breasts.' You speak of art like the great man you are, 
and I shall certainly follow your advice, for I understand what you mean 
to say! Oh, if we had a poet who knew how to design a drama of the kind 
you mean! But unfortunately — you will yourself admit it — if we want 
anything at all effective we are forced, to our shame, to have recourse to 
foreign things. How many subjects there are in our own history! 

Ricasoli will have told you that I wanted you to write a line of yours on 
a piece of paper, with your signature. If you can do so I shall be most 
grateful, 

1 Copialettere, pp. 449-50, and elsewhere. 

2 'Una lettera inedita di Verdi' {Corriere delta Sera, 12th May 1933, reprinted from a 
French periodical Dante). The letter has been reprinted recently by Abbiati (I, pp. 
691-2) from the autograph in the Gallini Collection. 



158 THE MAN VERDI 

Farewell, my dear Giusti; love me, for I love you much and esteem you 
infinitely. Farewell! 

Your 

Verdi. 

Verdi seems to accept the poet's rebuke. Nothing could be done 
about his next opera, / Masnadieri, after Schiller, which was already 
half written, but it is probable that Giusti's words weighed with Verdi 
in the following year in the choice of the subject of La Battaglia di 
Legnano, a piece of unconcealed patriotic propaganda. 

Muzio accompanied Barezzi to Busseto and stayed there for a few 
days before returning to Milan, where he found Verdi and Ricordi 
in a rage because he had not got back in time to correct the proofs of 
the vocal score of Macbeth. Soon he was working ' night and day' on 
the preparation of a reduction of the opera for piano duet and on 
other commissions from Ricordi, but then, suddenly, all this had to 
be abandoned to other people, while Muzio set out on the great 
adventure of his life, his journey to Paris and London in the company 
of the Signor Maestro. 

It took about a week for them to reach Paris, travelling by the St 
Gotthard route, through Switzerland to Strasbourg, then down the 
Rhine, with halts at Karlsruhe, Mainz and Cologne, and on to 
Brussels and thence to Paris. Muzio noted down the distances and 
the times taken, by diligence, lake or river steamer, and train; he 
counted the tunnels they passed through, and described the journey 
and all the sights they saw in a long letter to Barezzi. They reached 
Paris at seven o'clock in the morning on 1st June. Two days later 
Muzio was in London, alone, Verdi having heard a rumour that 
Jenny Lind did not wish to sing in / Masnadieri. Until he was assured 
that she would do so, as stipulated in the contract with Lumley, he 
would not set foot in England. 

Muzio's impressions of London, its inhabitants, the climate and 
the English Sunday, are most entertaining : 

4th June 1847: 

What a chaos is London! What confusion! Paris is nothing in com- 
parison. People shouting, poor people weeping, steamers flying, men on 
horseback, in carriages, on foot, and all howling like the damned. My dear 
Signor Antonio, you can't imagine what it's like. 

Milan is nothing. Paris is something in comparison with London; but 
London is a city unique in all the world ; it suffices to consider that there 
are almost two million inhabitants — then one can imagine what an 
immense city it is. . . . 

I have taken apartments for the Maestro and myself, on condition that 
they please him, because if he can't work in peace, then we shall go into 
the country, for Lumley has had an apartment specially prepared in his 



MUZIO'S VERDI 159 

country retreat, foreseeing that Verdi will not be able to work in the midst 
of all this noise. . . . 

Here one doesn't do business in francs, but in sterling; the money I 
have spent here in one day would suffice for ten days at Milan, and that 's 
no exaggeration. As soon as Verdi is here we shall get down to hard work 
and quickly flee from this Babylon. One needs patience to put up with the 
noise, but it's the money that counts. For three rooms I wanted to take 
they asked £5 a week, and ten shillings for the maid. Instead I have taken 
only two rooms, and I have had a bed for myself put in the parlour, 
which during the daytime serves as a most beautiful divan and at night 
becomes a bed; if Verdi likes this, very well; if not, we will take the three 
rooms and pay £5. 

Verdi arrived a few days later. 

16th June: 

It's a mistake to say that all Englishmen speak French; there is nobody, 
one can say, in the shops and stores, who speaks French. The Englishman 
hates the Frenchman and his language. The high society of the Lords 
speak Italian well, having almost all been for years in Italy for amusement 
and diversion, and when one goes into society at least one can make 
oneself understood ; otherwise it would be sheer desperation. You will have 
guessed, without my telling you, that we are working from morning to 
night. We get up at five in the morning and we work until six in the 
evening (supper time) ; then we go for a while to the theatre and return at 
eleven and go to bed, so as to be up early next morning. The opera pro- 
gresses, and two acts are already at the copyist's, and by next Monday, 
perhaps, everything will be finished; then there's the scoring to be done. I 
am of the opinion — mark my words! — that, after Ernani, it's the most 
popular opera that Verdi has written, and the one that will have the 
widest circulation. . . . 

We in Italy imagine that the English don't love music; this is a mistake. 
It is said that the English know nothing but how to pay for the pleasure of 
hearing great artists, but that they don't understand anything; this is a 
mistake that the French have spread about and that the Italians have 
adopted because it's a French idea. I say that no man pays for things he 
doesn't like and which don't give him pleasure. The English have never 
hissed a masterpiece. They have never received with indifference a Barber 
of Seville, as Rome has, or a William Tell, as Paris has, and they have 
never hissed an Otello, as Naples did on its first appearance. 

Muzio found the English rather too fond of music, when they sat 
through a concert programme of fifty items, lasting six hours. 
Jenny Lind he thought a great artist, but disliked the way she showed 
off her bravura by arbitrary trills and fioriture, 'things which pleased 
in the last century, but not in 1847. We Italians are not accustomed 
to things of this sort and if la Lind came to Italy she would abandon 
her mania for embellishments and sing simply, having a voice 
uniform and flexible enough to sustain a phrase in la Frezzolini's 



160 THE MAN VERDI 

manner'. Lumley had placed a box at Verdi's disposal. When the 
queen and royal family attended a performance of Norma Muzio 
'stared his eyes out' at the rich dresses and diamonds and jewellery 
worn by the 'Dames and Ladies and Misses'. The latter, for their 
part, were equally interested in the composer and, as one paper 
recorded, 'devoured poor Verdi with their opera-glasses'. 'This is 
quite true,' Muzio told Barezzi. ' Every evening they look at nobody 
but Verdi. He is already popular in London, as he is in all Italy.' 

It's cold in London; it does nothing but rain, with wind all the time, 
and the Maestro doubts whether there is any sun, for he has never seen it 
shining owing to the mist, which is continual. It's weather that gets on 
one's nerves in an incredible manner. Blessed Italy, where we have at 
least got the sun! 

I want to make you laugh. . . . Last night the Maestro happened to see 
a newspaper printed in London in French, the Revue et Gazette des 
Theatres, and there he read these words: 'Verdi, dont l'aide-de-camp, 
Emmanuel, un jeune maestro, est arrive avant-hier, est attendu aujourd' 
hui.' 'There you are,' said the Maestro. 'They have created you my 
aide-de-camp,' and he made me read the paper and we had a good laugh; 
but I can't find out how they learned my name, seeing that the paper was 
printed the morning after my arrival. 

Considering the time of year, Verdi and Muzio were certainly 
unfortunate in the weather they encountered in England. On 28th 
June it rained eight times, and eight times a pallid sun was seen 
through the mists; it was still cold and windy. Then there was 'this 
continual smoke, which poisons the air, blackens the face and burns 
the eyes'. 

29th June: 

Byron says: 'In England there are nine months of winter and three 
months without sun'; and it is Byron, England's greatest poet, who says 
that. ... On Sunday not a soul is seen in the streets ; they are all in church, 
where they make their sermons. Many, however, stay in bed almost all 
day, from what one hears, and others go into the country and the environs 
of London, for amusement and debauchery. The English say that on 
Sundays only dogs and Frenchmen are seen in the streets of London, and 
it is true that those one sees are all travellers and foreigners. 

The completion of / Masnadieri was delayed by the depressing effect 
of the climate, which made Verdi 'more lunatic and melancholy than 
usual'. However, rehearsals with the soloists began at the end of 
June. Jenny Lind, on closer acquaintance, was found to be good and 
kind, and a profound musician. Muzio remarks on her ugly face, 
serious expression, big nose, Nordic colouring and very large hands 
and feet. But he liked her: 'She leads a very retired life; she receives 
nobody, but lives to herself; she told me she hates the theatre and the 



MUZIO'S VERDI 161 

stage, and says she is unhappy and will not be content until she has 
no more to do with theatrical people and the theatre itself. In this 
matter she is very much in agreement with the Maestro's opinions; 
he too hates the theatre, and looks forward to retirement.' Verdi 
himself went out very little; he received many invitations but refused 
most of them : ' First of all because it's such a waste of time, and then 
because he can't eat those foods full of drugs and pepper, and all 
those cold dishes, and wine so strong that it's like rhum.' He even 
rejected an invitation, sent through Lablache, to meet the queen. 

While / Masnadieri was in preparation a rival company of singers 
was appearing at Covent Garden. Muzio reported also on events at 
this theatre: 

29th June: 

It seems they're not going to put on Macbeth, as Ronconi says the part 
doesn't suit him ; but that 's mere punctilio and because he knows he was 
responsible for the failure of Ernani in Paris last year. Well, as soon as 
Verdi arrived in London, Ronconi sent Marini to say that he would be 
glad to go over I due Foscari with him, and come to an understanding 
about certain things that did not suit him; but Verdi sent word in reply 
that he would gladly have taught him Ernani, since he had had a fiasco with 
that in Paris, but wouldn't teach him / due Foscari because, if he wished, 
he has talent enough to sing that part and make a success of it. On this 
account Ronconi doesn't want to sing Macbeth any more. 

18th July: 

The management of the other theatre — Covent Garden — has gone bank- 
rupt. Maestro Persiani, who was the impresario, has fled with his wife, 
leaving debts of £30,000; Salvi, the tenor, who had signed bills of exchange 
for 30,000 francs, has also fled — no one knows where. ... It is possible 
that the theatre will close, unless they find someone willing to take over 
the company. Who knows whether some mad Englishman won't come 
forward to play the impresario? The debts amount to more than three 
million francs. It's true that an artist is paid well in London, but then they 
know well how to get their money back, by skinning him. You may believe 
me: a pound a day in one's pocket is nothing. 

Those Covent Garden singers, the old ones that is, are all hostile to 
Verdi's music, and didn't want to put on either Nabucco or / Lombardi; 
they wanted to attract the public with old operas, but everyone now has 
his eyes open and novelties are wanted. 

They put on / due Foscari with great success, but only for two per- 
formances, and seeing that lots of people came to hear it, they were furious 
and haven't performed it since, out of jealousy, saying that they didn't 
want to be beholden to a composer who was the rival of their theatre, and 
they wanted to do without his operas. And thus by punctilio they have 
ruined the management and ruined themselves. 

Maestro Costa, who was so much in favour at court, having deliberately 
played la Lind's accompaniments badly, has fallen into disgrace with the 



162 THE MAN VERDI 

queen, and recently a concert was given and he was not called for, and it 
is said that the queen has had him rebuked. From a Neapolitan la Lind 
could certainly not have expected anything good, for they are all envious, 
proud, and, not being able to do anything well or sing well themselves, 
they don't want anyone else to do well either. 

/ Masnadieri was heard for the first time on 22nd July: 

The opera aroused a furore. From the prelude to the last finale there 
was nothing but applause, evvivas, recalls and encores. The Maestro 
himself conducted, seated on a chair higher than all the others, baton in 
hand. As soon as he appeared in the orchestra-pit there was continuous 
applause, which lasted a quarter of an hour. They hadn't finished 
applauding when there arrived the queen and Prince Albert, her consort, 
the queen mother and the Duke of Cambridge, son of the queen, and all 
the royal family, and an infinite number of lords and dukes. It suffices to 
say that the boxes were full of ladies in grande toilette, and the pit crowded 
so that no one could remember ever having seen so many people. At half 
past four the doors were opened and the people burst into the theatre with 
fury such as had never been seen before. It was something new for London, 
and Lumley has made them pay well for it. 

The takings amounted to £6,000 and surpassed even the amount taken 
on the evening when the queen attended a gala performance. The Maestro 
was cheered, called on the stage, alone and with the singers, flowers were 
thrown to him, and nothing was heard but 'Viva Verdi, bietifoV . . . . 

Tomorrow, Saturday, second performance. If the Maestro conducts on 
Tuesday as well, we shall leave on Wednesday for Paris ; if he doesn't 
conduct on Tuesday, we shall leave on Monday. 

Muzio's last word on the English is given in a later letter: 

Verdi aroused a decided furore in London, but the English are a formal 
and thoughtful people, and never give way to enthusiasm like the Italians, 
partly because they don't understand too well, and partly because they say 
educated people shouldn't make a row. The English go to the theatre to 
show off their riches and luxury; when an opera already printed is per- 
formed they have the score in hand and follow with their eyes what the 
singer does and if, according to their ideas, the singer does well, they 
applaud and sometimes call for an encore; but they never insist, as our 
people do. I often went to hear the famous Rachel, the leading tragic 
actress. I saw some Englishmen with the printed tragedy in their hands, 
not looking at the actress, but watching to see if she said all the words. 

Verdi and Muzio reached Paris on 27th July. On 8th August Muzio 
told Barezzi: 'Today I am leaving for Milan; Verdi is staying in 
Paris.' The separation was expected to be only temporary; neither 
Verdi nor Muzio realized that a stage in both their lives had come 
to an end. 

Muzio, back in Milan, witnessed the ever increasing tension 
between the Austrians and the local populace. He invited Barezzi to 



MUZIO'S VERDI 163 

come to Milan in September for the solemn entry of the new arch- 
bishop, Cardinal Romilli, the successor of Gaisruck. This was made 
the occasion of a patriotic demonstration by the Italians, with cheers 
and the singing of hymns to Pio Nono, who they hoped would lead 
them to freedom. A few days later there was rioting in the streets : 
' A few poor devils lost their lives,' Muzio told Barezzi, ' and others 
will lose theirs as a result of their wounds. You will hear from the 
Selettis the whole sad story. All seems to be quiet at present, but only 
a spark is needed to set everything in flames. If I see that things are 
taking a turn for the worse I shall go to Paris or come to Busseto.' 
Muzio, clearly, was not exactly a leader of the Resistance Movement. 1 

Opposition to the Austrians was organized by a secret committee, 
which ordered boycotts of the lotteries, of tobacco and other state 
monopolies. Satires were printed and inscriptions appeared on the 
walls. 'House to let' was written on the governor's palace, and col- 
laborators threatened with death. Radetzky told his daughter on 
11th January 1848; 'The Countess Samoyloff was asked by two 
gentlemen not to receive Germans any more in her house. In the 
presence of those persons she sent for the porter and told him: "I 
am at home to every German and not at home to any Italian". 
However, two days later she left for Paris. Mme Carpani's life was 
threatened and she, too, has taken flight to Vienna.' 

Great hostility was aroused by Fanny Elssler, who returned to 
Milan during this winter, when she objected to members of the corps 
de ballet wearing medallions of Pio Nono. Hitherto she had enjoyed 
enormous popularity, and not long before this her chamber-pot had 
been purchased by a fanatical admirer for 600 lire. But on 12th 
February she was hissed in the ballet Faust, fainted on the stage, broke 
her contract and returned to Vienna. 

The scene was set for the revolution. 

Nothing of all this was witnessed by Verdi, who stayed on and on 
in Paris. There he and Giuseppina Strepponi had found one another 
again. 

1 When the revolution occurred he is said to have thrown out of the window at the 
retreating Austrian troops everything he possessed except his piano, and to have fought 
at the barricades. Perhaps he did. But there is no justification at all for Gatti's misuse 
of passages from Muzio's letters to Barezzi. He passes over expressions of timidity in 
letters of 13th (above) and 20th September, and transplants another: 'I have had no 
further trouble, but I fear for the future; I shan't stay at Milan if I have serious un- 
pleasantness', from before the revolution (17th February 1848) to after it (first edition, 
I, p. 314; second edition, p. 251). 



CHAPTER 



5 



Verdi and Giuseppina Strepponi 



F. 



rom the very beginning of his operatic career, Verdi's life had 
been strangely linked with that of Giuseppina Strepponi. In a sense 
Giuseppina discovered Verdi. Long before she had even heard of 
him, of course, other people had recognized his outstanding qualities. 
Barezzi, Provesi and Massini could all have claimed to have 'dis- 
covered' Verdi, at different stages of his development. They all did 
their best to encourage him and help him towards his goal, which, it 
soon became evident, was the conquest of La Scala at Milan. Giusep- 
pina, however, was the first person inside the magic circle to sense his 
greatness, to recognize the right of entry that belonged to this pale, 
black-bearded young man knocking at the door. She was a prima 
donna, whose opinion counted for something in that world. As we 
have seen, in spite of what Gatti and his innumerable Italian followers 
have written, it is not true that Giuseppina was Merelli's mistress. 
Extra-musical considerations played no part in the impresario's 
decision to put Oberto on the stage after hearing the work praised by 
Giuseppina. 

According to Gatti, 1 Verdi called to see Giuseppina in the spring 
of 1839, with the score of Oberto under his arm, and played the opera 
through to her: 

Before the season ends, Verdi presents himself to la Strepponi ; if she, 
who has such influence over Merelli, thinks well of her part in the opera he 
has composed, there can be no doubt that it will be performed. 

La Strepponi, after hearing it, expresses her full approbation of the 
music and praises it openly. 

1 First edition, I, p. 160; second edition, p. 135. 
164 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 165 

Although this story has been taken over from Gatti's biography, 
where it apparently originated, by almost all subsequent writers on 
Verdi, it is not supported by any documentary or other evidence. It 
is directly contradicted by a passage in a letter from Giuseppina to 
Verdi of 3rd January 1853, in which she declares that the year then 
just beginning was the eleventh year of their acquaintance. She thus 
dated their personal relationship from the time of the production of 
Nabucco and not from the time of the first consideration of Oberto 
by Merelli. 

Verdi himself describes the events leading up to the acceptance of 
Oberto in a letter to Opprandino Arrivabene of 7th March 1874: 

My opera Oberto was to have been given in the spring of 1839 for the 
benefit of the Pio Istituto Filarmonico. Peppina, Ronconi and Moriani 
were to have sung in it. The parts were already distributed, when Moriani 
became seriously ill and could not sing any more. One fine morning, after 
the end of the season, a messenger from the theatre came to say that 
Merelli wanted to speak to me. I had never yet spoken to Merelli and 
believed the invitation was a mistake. Nevertheless I went. Merelli said 
these very words: 'I have heard la Strepponi and Ronconi speak well of 
your opera. If you like to adapt it for la Marini, Salvi, etc., I will have it 
performed without any expense to you. If the opera is successful, we will 
sell it and share the receipts ; if it fails, so much the worse for you and 
for me ! ' 

In the account given to Ricordi for the Italian edition of Pougin's 
biography Verdi says that Merelli ' had overheard on the stage, one 
evening, a conversation between Signora Strepponi and Giorgio 
Ronconi, in which the former had spoken very favourably of the 
music of Oberto, and the impression she had formed was snared by 
Ronconi'. We know that Verdi's memory was subject to strange 
lapses, but, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, there is no 
reason to suppose that he was wrong in believing that he owed the 
final acceptance of Oberto simply to the happy chance of this con- 
versation on the stage being overheard by the impresario. 

Earlier negotiations had been taken out of Verdi's hands by Massini 
and Merighi. He tells us himself that he had never met Merelli. 
There is no reason why he should have met the singers. Giuseppina, 
playing over the part that had been given to her to study, or rehearsing 
it with the maestro concertatore of La Scala, divined in a marvellous 
way the latent talents of the unknown composer. 

Nearly three years went by before their paths crossed again. During 
that time Verdi lost his wife, saw his second opera fail disastrously, 
and then, from the depths of despair, arose to create Nabucco. 
Giuseppina, for her part, experienced public triumphs and private 
disasters, felt passion, anguish and regret. A month or more after 
bearing the second of Moriani's two children, she stayed for a few 



166 THE MAN VERDI 

days at Milan, on her way from Venice to Genoa, and during this 
stay at Milan she met Verdi for the first time. The date can be fixed 
with certainty — 22nd December 1841. 

In the case of Nabucco, when it seemed doubtful whether the opera 
would, after all, be produced, Verdi really did call to see Giuseppina 
and enlist her support. 

Gatti states x that this visit took place on 23rd October — a quite 
impossible date, when Giuseppina was still at Trieste, and in the last 
stages of pregnancy. He was misled by a mistake in an article in the 
periodical Verdi: Rivista per Vanno giubilare (Bologna, 1926; only 
one issue appeared). This article, 'Modeste Origini', which is 
unsigned, includes extracts from a document of remarkable interest, 
a letter written by Giovannino Barezzi, who was on a visit to Milan, 
to his father, Verdi's benefactor, at Busseto. The true date of the 
letter is given in the catalogue of an exhibition: 'La Stampa' nel 
quarantesimo della morte di Giuseppe Verdi. Mostra dei cimeli verdiani 
(Turin, 1941). Item 85 of this catalogue includes the letter in question, 
lent by Luigi Agostino Garibaldi, of Genoa: 

Two letters of Giovanni Barezzi, one dated 11th January 1841, in which 
he speaks of Oberto, the other dated 26th December 1841, in which he 
speaks of Nabucco and la Strepponi. 

This precious document is given below in the unsatisfactory form in 
which it appears in the article 'Modeste Origini', except that the date 
is corrected. One suspects that parts of the editorial commentary have 
strayed into the text of the letter itself; the tenses may even have been 
altered throughout, for the sake of the narration. The original text 
ought certainly to be published. 

After the 'Cartelone', the placard with the announcement of the 
operas to be performed during the Carnival season, appeared without 
mention of Nabucco, Verdi returned to his rooms in a temper and 
discussed the situation with his friends. What is apparently a quota- 
tion from Giovannino Barezzi's letter begins here: 

. . . and then he decides to write to Merelli in rather harsh terms. Merelli 
resents that and shows the letter to Pasetti and says : ' See how Verdi has 
misunderstood this ! That is not my intention, but I did it so that I should 
gain credit with the subscribers when, towards the end of Carnival, I put 
out a new placard, with the announcement of his opera. Tell Verdi, how- 
ever, to show la Strepponi her part, and if she wants to sing it I '11 gladly 
put it on.' 

Pasetti sends for Verdi and they go to see la Strepponi; they explain 
the situation and she very willingly agrees to sing in the opera and adds : 
'Come here tomorrow at half past one and I'll look through my part.' 

Next day — 23rd [December] 1841, that is — Verdi and Pasetti go to see 

1 First edition, I, p. 182; second edition, p. 153. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 167 

la Strepponi at the agreed time; she tries over her part at the pianoforte 
with Verdi and then says to him : ' I like this music very much, and I want 
to sing it when I make my debut,'' and at once adds: 'Let's go and see 
Ronconi.' They get in Pasetti's cab, which had been waiting at the door, 
and go to see Ronconi. La Strepponi points out to him the beauties of the 
opera and Verdi tells him the plot. Ronconi, after hearing all about it, 
says: 'Very well, this evening I'll speak to the impresario, and tell him 
that I don't want to sing in Nini's opera, but that I want to sing in yours.' 

It is strange that there is not a word about this episode in the account 
given by Verdi to Ricordi. However, as the author of the article says, 
the truth of the story is incontestable, for Verdi himself added his 
signature to that of Giovannino Barezzi, at the foot of the letter. 
The dates of these events are clear: the placard came out on 21st 
December and Verdi probably wrote to Merelli on the same day, 
Pasetti and Verdi visited Giuseppina on 22nd and 23rd December. 
Gatti, misled by the wrong date in the article, gets his chronology all 
wrong. He quotes the conversation of Giuseppina and Ronconi, but 
makes this precede the publication of the placard on 21st December 
and Verdi's angry letter to Merelli. Abbiati takes over all Gatti's 
mistakes and develops from them eleven pages of almost pure 
fiction. 1 

Pasetti's part in this episode may have given rise to stories which 
Verdi himself, in later years, explicitly denied. On 28th January 1876, 
he wrote to Giulio Ricordi: 2 

1 read in II Pungolo various assertions about Nabucco. Without wishing 
to underline the inaccuracies about the contract between Merelli and me, 
or those about the composer (it was not Nini) who refused to set the 
Nabucco libretto, I am anxious it should be known that neither Pasetti nor 
anybody else put down money as security, so that my opera could be 
performed, for the simple reason that Merelli never even thought of asking 
for it. In any case, I still had the greater part of the 4,000 Austrian 
lire paid me, in accordance with the contract, by Merelli himself (who 
was neither 'desolate' nor 'desperate') the day after the fiasco of Un 
giorno di regno. And may I add that if there had been need of security, and 
the money I possessed insufficient, I should have turned to the man who 
first helped me, to my second father, Antonio Barezzi. To him I owe 
everything, and only to him ! No one else ever sacrificed a centesimo for me. 
If it were worth while I should have to correct innumerable inaccurate 
assertions, especially about the early years of my career, but, I repeat, it 
is not worth while. Speak about that either to the author of the article or 
to the editor of 77 Pungolo, just as you think best. I don't want to start any 
polemics about it. 

1 1, pp. 385-95. 

2 This letter was published in the Gazzetta Musicale di Milano on 30th January 1876. 
A very inaccurate and incomplete transcription appears in Gino Monaldi's Verdi nella 
vita e nelVarte (Milan, n.d.), pp. 105-6. 



168 THE MAN VERDI 

From remarks by the Countess Maffei it appears that Pasetti was in 
the habit of boasting about what he had done for Verdi. The vocal 
score of Oberto had been dedicated to him by Ricordi, the publisher. 
Unhappily, when Giuseppina returned to Milan from Genoa, on 
16th February 1842, to appear at La Scala in Donizetti's Belisario 
and Verdi's Nabucco, her voice was badly affected by the general 
deterioration of her health, as described in an earlier chapter. 
Donizetti's message for a Roman impresario, in a letter to Antonio 
Vasselli of 4th March, shortly before the first performance of Nabucco, 
is worth further consideration: 

Tell him that this singer created such a furore here in Belisario that she 
was the only one who never got any applause, that her Verdi did not want 
her in his own opera, and the management imposed her on him. 

Although he had been counting on her appearance in his opera, and 
although he actually owed to her its final acceptance by Merelli, it is 
understandable that Verdi, in the circumstances, would have pre- 
ferred another singer for the part of Abigaille. We have seen that 
what is generally written about Giuseppina Strepponi's share in the 
success of Nabucco is quite untrue. The really interesting thing about 
this remark of Donizetti's is the fact that he refers familiarly to 
Giuseppina and 'her Verdi'. At this early date, that is astonishing. 
There can be no question, yet, of a love affair between them. Doni- 
zetti's remark can only be interpreted as meaning that, in her 
enthusiasm for Verdi's work, she had talked about him so much and 
so warmly that she got herself talked about among her fellow artists. 
It is a wonderful thing that the woman who was to become Verdi's 
second wife, and spend half a century by his side, should have been 
among his very earliest admirers in the operatic world, and should 
have played a vital role in the launching of both Oberto and Nabucco. 
It can be truly said that Giuseppina Strepponi, in a sense, discovered 
Verdi. 

How much fight a single word in a contemporary letter can throw 
upon the past! We can do with a lot more light upon this early period 
of Verdi's life, about which we have all too little documentary 
evidence and all too many romantic legends. A legend, created by 
Gatti, makes him, in the post-Nabucco period, the rival of Donizetti 
for the favours of Giuseppina Appiani. On examination, this legend 
falls to pieces, revealing itself as the product of confusion between 
two different ladies of the same surname, neither of whom, in all 
probability, ever had a love affair with either composer. Another 
legend, invented by Barbiera, represents Verdi at the feet of a 
diaphanous aristocratic maiden, Gina della Somaglia, who turns out 
on closer investigation to have been a sturdy matron at this time, 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 169 

with a family. And then there were the singers, of course, including 
Giuseppina Strepponi. 

It is very difficult to decide just when Giuseppina and Verdi 
became something more than friends. Everything that has been 
written on this subject is based, more or less, on guesswork. We can 
emphatically reject, however, the outrageous statement, in Aldo 
Oberdorfer's posthumous volume, that the beginning of their 
love affair was 'in all probability anterior to the death of Margherita' 1 
That is the most gratuitous and odious insult that even the Italians 
have ever offered to the memory of their great man. 

During and after the performances of Nabucco a warm friendship 
began to develop between Verdi and Giuseppina. As is well known, 
he came to her for advice about the figure he should ask for his next 
opera, and was told that he ought not to claim more than Bellini had 
been paid for Norma. The incident took place in her dressing-room at 
La Scala, on 10th March, the night of the second performance of 
Nabucco. In later life she used to recall sometimes, with laughter, 
Verdi's embarrassed demeanour, his taciturnity, his odd gloves, and 
hands that did not know where to rest, during these early visits to 
her dressing-room at the theatre or her apartments. She had little 
enough to laugh about at the time. She had lost her voice, ruined her 
health, exhausted almost all her savings; her career seemed at an 
end, and yet she had to support her mother, two brothers and sister 
and two illegitimate children of her own. On 26th March she was still 
contemplating the possibility of marriage with someone 'not very 
rich' and 'a complete stranger to theatrical affairs'. These facts need 
to be borne in mind in considering the development of her relations 
with Verdi. 

The year 1842 is the least well documented of the whole of Verdi's 
life. It is the year, we know, of his entry into society. When Barbiera 
in 1892 was gathering material for his well-known book on the 
Countess Maffei and her salon, Verdi told him : ' I was introduced to 
her in the first months of 1842. From that time onward our friendly 
relations were constant as long as she lived.' No letters to the Coun- 
tess Maffei survive from the earliest years of their friendship. Instead, 
from 1842, we have only the entry in the autograph album of Sofia 
de' Medici (see p. 99), the two letters to Emilia Morosini (see p. 
104), written in that curious and rather embarrassingly gallant style, 
and the two curt notes to Lucca (see p. 123). The album entry is 
dated from Milan, 6th May, the first letter from Milan, 21st July; 
the second letter was written at Busseto, apparently in July; the two 
notes are again from Milan, some time in September and 13th 
October. 

It is obviously important to discover where Giuseppina was living, 

1 Giuseppe Verdi (Milan, 1949), p. 66. 



170 THE MAN VERDI 

and if possible what she was doing in 1842, after the last performance 
of Nabucco on 19th March. It was over a year before she returned to 
the stage. The perpetually wandering existence of a singer had not 
permitted her to form a home of her own ; we do not know where her 
family was living, nor who was looking after her children. No 
biographer of Verdi or Giuseppina has hitherto been able to tell us 
anything at all about her life at this time. The last letter to Lanari 
from this year is that of 26th March, from Milan. It can safely be 
assumed that the prospects of matrimony, mentioned in this letter, 
soon evaporated : she had herself, at the time, little enough belief in 
them. And twice before, on reflection, she had refused to purchase 
security without love. 

A most interesting letter, written three months after the last letter 
to Lanari, has recently come to light and been published by Enrico 
Benassi in the admirable periodical Aurea Parma. 1 It is addressed to 
Giacomo Tommasini of Parma, who had been, in his day, the most 
celebrated doctor in Italy. Now aged seventy-seven, he had seen his 
theories superseded and his followers turn aside, but he was still a 
famous man. Giuseppina had consulted him. The tone of this letter 
is very different from that of the racy correspondence with Lanari. 
Here we find her respectful, movingly sincere, though still with a 
touch of light humour; the later Giuseppina, most charming of 
letter- writers, is foreshadowed: 

After your kind reception and the concern you have shown for the 
improvement of my health, I ought to have written to you several times 
already. I wanted to do so. I set myself at the writing table, but that 
blessed renown of yours is so great, and I so small, that it seemed excessive 
boldness on my part to direct a scrawl of mine into your hands and cause 
you to lose some minutes in reading it. 

I venerate all great talents, but I idolize those few who have names I can 
easily pronounce, names at once sweet and solemn, names that are com- 
pletely Italian, like Tommasini ! And yet, in the presence of such people, 
my intellectual faculties stand paralysed; there remains to me only the 
ability to thank God, who still loves Italy, since He infuses such an 
emanation of his Divine Power in a few chosen sons of this great and 
unfortunate country ! 

I almost feel thankful for my illness, since it turned your partial attention 
towards me! Dr Marardetti, whom you charged with inquiries about my 
well-being, will have informed you, in technical terms, of the effect of the 
medicine which you prescribed for me. My weakness, or morbid fatigue 
through overwork, as I think it better called, being centred in the bronchial 
tubes, the gargling had a tonic effect on the upper part of the throat, on 
the tonsils, the uvula, etc., but did not bring about any improvement 

1 Giacomo Tommasini medico di Giuseppina Strepponi' {Aurea Parma, Jan.-Mar. 
1951). 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 171 

where I feel persistent weakness and the seat of the hoarseness. I am 
thinking of taking the waters of Recoaro. What do you advise? I don't 
dare to hope for a reply, but if you did send one it would be dear to me, 
like a first illusion. 

Honour with your friendship, 

GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI. 

Milan, 24th June 1842. 

Tommasini did reply, very pleasantly. Giuseppina, who destroyed 
so much that reminded her of things in her youth she wished to 
forget, kept his letter. It is found in her autograph album, preserved 
at Sant' Agata: 

Parma, 2nd July 1842. 
My kind Friend, 

I don't hold my renown, such as it is, in such great account as you do. 
But even if it were very great it would be wearisome to me, and I would 
gladly renounce it, if it should cause me to be thought less courteous, less 
accessible and urbane than any man of feeling ought to be. 

In view of my renown, you thought it excessive boldness to write to me, 
and were undecided whether to do so ! Yet it did not occur to me to act 
the famous man with you, either at Parma when I visited you at the 
[Albergo della] Posta, or at Milan when I had the pleasure of seeing you 
again. You oblige me, therefore, to suppose one or other of these two 
things : either my manners and my language are not what I would like them 
to be, or you in interpreting them badly have been excessively unjust to 
me. I don't know which of these suppositions to prefer. But if the second 
is the more admissible (and the words at the end of your letter, 'I don't 
dare to hope for a reply', oblige me to believe that), then recant at once, 
understand me better, set aside my renown, and, without cold and inoppor- 
tune considerations, grant me your friendship. 

The waters at Recoaro may do you good. Be careful, however, of the 
highly variable temperatures of that district. If you are unable to go to 
Recoaro, and your stomach won't bear a liberal use of those waters, 
minute doses of iron, continued for a long time, would also benefit you. 
And, better than any medicines, rest will benefit you, since the fatigue 
which you mention was evidently the result of overwork. 

Let me know if I can help you, meanwhile, quite freely, and notice how 
much more just I am than you are, and how much better I know you than 
you know me. I am sure you will write to me before leaving Milan and I 
expect to receive from you, before very long, a kind and friendly retraction. 

Give my regards to Dr Morardet, and believe me always 

Your affectionate friend, 

G. Tommasini. 

Tommasini addressed his letters: ' AH'ornatissima Signora Giusep- 
pina Strepponi a Milano.' In this and in Giuseppina's own letter we 
now have documentary proof that she stayed on at Milan after the 



172 THE MAN VERDI 

end of the season at La Scala, and therefore that the possibility 
existed of the further development of her friendly relationship with 
Verdi. The fact that she went all the way to Parma to consult Tomma- 
sini suggests very strongly that Verdi had taken a hand in the direction 
of her affairs. Parma, the capital of the small state in which he was 
born, called up in him always a vein of fierce local patriotism. This 
applied both to music and to medicine. He once sent to Parma for a 
double-bass player, to show the musicians of the Scala orchestra how 
a certain passage should be performed, and in 1846 he sent word to 
Antonio Barezzi, through Muzio, that he should not come to Milan, 
which was 'no place for doctors', but should rather go for treatment 
to Parma, where he would be cured. It is very likely that he gave the 
same advice to Giuseppina. And when she had recovered it was at the 
Teatro Ducale, at Parma, that she reappeared on the stage, 1 on 17th 
April 1843, as Abigaille in Nabucco, in Verdi's presence. The agent 
responsible for the engagement of the singers at Parma was her old 
friend Cirelli. 

Mercede Mundula has pointed out that not only did Verdi go 
himself to Parma for this occasion, but, contrary to his usual practice 
of supervising only the first few performances of his operas, he 
stayed there for almost the whole of the remainder of the season. 
On 11th February he had won his second big success at La Scala, 
with / Lombardi; on 25th February he told Demalde that he did not 
know yet whether he would be going to Vienna or Parma to put on 
Nabucco, this being dependent on the offers made him by the impre- 
sarios, 'for, to tell the truth, the success or failure of Nabucco matters 
little to me'. On 20th March he left Milan for Vienna, where Nabucco 
was produced on 4th April; within a week he was back at Busseto. It 
is illuminating to see how his plans for the visit to Parma changed, 
and how he constantly deferred his return to Milan : 

To Count Mocenigo, 9th April: 

By the 14th I shall be at Parma, where I shall stay until the end of the 
month. 

To Isidoro Cambiasi, from Parma, 29th April: 
I shall be at Milan soon. 

To Count Mocenigo, 3rd May: 
I shall stay another eight or ten days. 

To the same, 17th May: 

I shall stay here until the evening of the 22nd. 

1 It is not true, as Gatti states (first edition, I, p. 221; second edition, p. 172), that 
Giuseppina had already appeared in Nabucco at Trieste. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 173 

To the same, 25th May: 

If you reply by return of post you can address the letter to Parma; 
otherwise to Milan. 

To Antonio Poggi, Parma, 30th May : 
I am leaving today for Milan. 

Clearly something more than an impresario's offer attracted him to 
Parma and held him there, almost to the end of the season. It is not 
quite true to say, as Signora Mundula does, that Verdi did not move 
from Parma during all this time. Actually, he went to Bologna for a 
few days after the second performance on 18th April. The opera was 
a great success at Parma, and was given twenty- two times. The 
Duchess Marie Louise attended two performances and gave the 
composer a gold pin, with her monogram in diamonds. Giuseppina's 
benefit night was on 31st May, with the miscellaneous sort of pro- 
gramme that was usual on such occasions — parts of Nabucco, the 
third act of Beatrice di Tenda and a special arrangement of the 
William Tell overture, played by the brass band of the army of the 
Duchy of Parma. The duchess herself again attended, and presented 
Giuseppina with a gold ornament, decorated with enamel and pearls. 
The public contributed flowers and three poems in her honour. On 
1st June, the last night of the season, she was again acclaimed, with 
wreaths and 'a bunch of flowers of enormous dimensions'. Parma 
had treated her well. And Giuseppina showed her gratitude by 
remaining there until 5th June, in order to sing without fee at a 
concert in aid of the local orphanage. 

The letters quoted show that Verdi was detained at Parma much 
longer than he had anticipated, but it is not certain that he stayed 
there only to be in Giuseppina's company. He had dedicated / 
Lombardi to Marie Louise, by gracious permission; parts of the 
music had been sent to her, with a promise of a complete vocal score 
when it was published. Between the first performance of Nabucco, 
which she attended, and 27th May, when she again heard the opera, 
she had been away at Piacenza. Possibly Verdi had to wait for her 
return from Piacenza for an interview that had already been arranged. 
A few days after his return to Milan he wrote to Count Di Bombelles, 
Marie Louise's second morganatic husband: 

Your Excellency, 

Flattered by the kind reception which Her Majesty deigned to accord 
me, and by the magnificent gift with which she honoured me, I beg Your 
Excellency to present to her my humble and sincere thanks. 

As Her Majesty, deigning to speak about the music of / Lombardi, asked 
about the reduction for pianoforte, I advise Your Excellency that a copy 
will be prepared as soon as possible and I shall make it my duty to send it 
to you. 



174 



THE MAN VERDI 



I thank also Your Excellency for the kindness with which you received 
me, which I shall always remember, and which will be an encouragement 
to persevere in my thorny career. 
With the deepest respect, 

Your Excellency's most humble servant, 

Giuseppe Verdi. 
Milan, 4th June 1843. 1 

We still do not know what sort of relationship existed between 
Giuseppina Strepponi and the composer at this time. 

The summary of Giuseppina's not very numerous stage appearances 
after her breakdown in 1842 show how well she served 'her Verdi', 
in this respect at least. In 1843, after Nabucco at Parma, she sang in 
the same opera at Bologna; in 1844 she sang in it at Verona; later in 
the same year she sang in Ernani at Bergamo, again in Verdi's 
presence; after a long and disastrous season at Palermo, which 
included performances of Ernani, the first Verdi opera to be heard in 
that city, she concluded her stage career with further performances 
of Nabucco at Alessandria and Modena in 1845 and 1846. 

The following table gives details of this last phase of her career: 



17th Apr. Parma 

5th June Parma 
8th Oct. Bologna 



1843 

Teatro Ducale Nabucco (Verdi) 

(Season ended 1st June) 

Concert 
Teatro Comunale Nabucco 



1844 

10th Jan. Verona Teatro Filarmonico Nabucco 
13th Feb. Verona Teatro Filarmonico Robert le Diable (Meyerbeer) 
28th May Turin Concert 

11th Aug. Bergamo Teatro Riccardi Ernani (Verdi) 
(Season ended 12th September) 
Oct. Palermo Teatro Carolino Linda di Chamounix (Doni- 
zetti) 
4th Dec. Palermo Teatro Carolino Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti) 
26th Dec. Palermo Teatro Carolino Ernani 



1845 

9th Mar. Palermo Teatro Carolino Belisario (1st act) (Donizetti) 
25th Oct. Alessandria Nabucco 

(Season ended 29th November) 



11th Jan. Modena 



1846 
Teatro Comunale 



Nabucco 



ll Inediti verdiani', by Ascanio Alessandri, in a special Verdi number (Numero 
unico) of La Regione Emilia- Romagna (1951). 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 175 

Giuseppina's name was not at first included in the list of singers 
engaged for the autumn season at Bologna in 1843; she replaced 
Sophie Loewe, who fell ill. The impresario Camillo Cirelli wrote to 
Lanari from Milan on 2nd October: 'Peppina is at Bologna. I hope, 
if her health stands it, she will be able to do well for herself there.' 
On 11th October he wrote again: 'You will have heard about Pep- 
pina's success at Bologna. God grant that it may continue and that, 
giving up the crazy love affairs that compromise her, she may begin 
to think of her future.' It is to be hoped that when Cirelli referred to 
Giuseppina's 'crazy love affairs' (lunatiche amorose) he was thinking 
of her past history. Resuming her career in the theatres, she would be 
exposed to the same dangers and temptations that had earlier 
brought about her downfall. 

The Bologna correspondent of II Figaro, while confirming Giusep- 
pina's success in Nabucco, remarked that the part was not really well 
suited to her vocal powers at that time. He recalled her previous 
appearances in the city (in 1837), when she had been in much better 
voice. She could no longer stand the strain of a whole season and 
henceforth appeared generally in single operas. After Roberto 
Devereux, in which she had no part, had failed, the management 
engaged another soprano, Fanny Maray, for Lucia, 'to give a very 
necessary rest to the Abigaille in Nabucco'. Performances of Verdi's 
opera, however, continued up to 26th November, if not later. 

Comments on Nabucco at Verona in January 1844 were similar to 
those at Bologna. The opera was a splendid success and the role of 
Abigaille a fine one, but not suited to Giuseppina's voice. 

77 Figaro mentions that ' Maestro Verdi arrived at Verona a few 
days before the first performance of Nabucco'. He had been invited 
to attend the last rehearsals and in asking permission to make this 
very short visit to Verona he told Count Mocenigo, director of the 
Teatro La Fenice, that it would be a good opportunity to hear a 
singer named Vitali, who was under consideration for a part in 
Ernani at Venice in March. 

Robert le Diable, at Verona on 13th February, was applauded, but 
was not fully understood at first; on 17th February, however, it 
aroused a furore, largely owing to Giuseppina's performance, as II 
Figaro recorded. She seems to have recovered something like her 
best form, and was given a very cordial reception on her benefit 
night, with flowers, wreaths, poems and a lithographed portrait. 

There are large gaps between her engagements at this period and 
we have no evidence as to what she was doing when she was not 
singing. She may already have begun to take pupils. Probably Milan, 
from 1842 onwards, remained her centre of operations; a later letter 
to the Countess Maffei mentions a home she had at one time furnished 
there. 



176 THE MAN VERDI 

II Figaro of 29th May mentions Giuseppina as one of four singers 
who appeared at a concert at the Teatro Regio, Turin. On 11th 
August she sang at Bergamo in Ernani, under Verdi's own direction, 
with great success. Verdi's visit to Bergamo, unknown to Gatti, but 
mentioned by Mercede Mundula, is recorded in // Figaro for 14th 
August. This time, however, he did not stay for the whole season. 
By 28th August he was at Busseto, preoccupied with his health and 
the composition of / due Foscari. On that day he wrote to Giusep- 
pina Appiani : 

Just a line to let you know that very soon I shall be at Milan. As soon 
as I am well I shall leave for the Lombard capital. My native air is not 
good for me. Oh, to be sure, this is an excommunicated place, right off the 
map! What more do you want? Be patient for once, and rest assured that 
no one rules over my intentions and I am not becoming the slave of 
anything! 

All your children are working desperately? I'm in a rage because I'm 
not doing anything, and if you knew how much I still have to do to / due 
Foscari\ Poor me! 

He had asked Giuseppina Strepponi, at Bergamo, to reply for him to 
a letter from Lucca. This is an early example of his use of her as a 
sort of private secretary; she wrote on his behalf to Giovannina 
Lucca, who was a good friend of hers. 1 

For six months, from October 1844 to March 1845, Giuseppina 
was at Palermo, the farthest afield that she ever went. It was a very 
unhappy six months. The Teatro Carolino, in this season, seemed 
under a curse. Nicolai's Templario, in which Giuseppina did not 
appear, was a complete failure. Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix, in 
the middle of October, fared little better. The Palermitan paper La 
Fata Galante on 30th October spoke in these terms of Giuseppina: 

In the past she was very famous and encircled by an aureole of glory. 
But the brilliant star that presided over her theatrical destiny seems now 
near to setting, and thus emits no more than a glimmer, to the feebleness 
of which must be ascribed her less than mediocre success. Let her rest now 
on her laurels; it shall never be forgotten that she was a famous singer, 
and one of the glories of Italy. 

The same paper on 30th December commented on performances of 
Lucrezia Borgia and Ernani (given under the title Elvira d'Aragona) : 

On Lucrezia Borgia: 

The principal singers were la Strepponi, Balzar and Milesi. The first and 
third of these were inadequate to sustain roles which demand so much 
action, vigour, voice, intelligence and dramatic art if they are to stir the 
emotions. . . . Lucrezia was received with coldness and indifference. 

1 The letter, concerning a future contract, is published by Abbiati (I, p. 519). 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 177 

On Ernani: 

La Strepponi, although accustomed to the demands of Maestro Verdi, 
UOcchio says, did not earn a single encomium in the part of Elvira. She 
gave further proof of no longer knowing how to put on the buskin, and 
thus of having forgotten all the exigencies of the stage. And we permit 
ourselves to ask her a question: Why that continual distraction, from 
which it seems that she is thinking of anything but the fact that she is on 
the stage and appearing before a cultured and intelligent audience? Why 
that monotony of gesture, even at moments calling for the display of 
strong emotion, and eloquent, rational, solemn declamation and action? 
We no longer recognize in la Strepponi the celebrated singer whom we 
heard elsewhere, not many years ago, received invariably with storms of 
applause and jubilation. 

UOcchio reported on 2nd January 1845 that the management of the 
theatre had taken energetic measures to secure another prima donna, 
Augusta Boccabadati. This artist, in Maria di Rohan and La Sonnam- 
bula, saved the situation. According to 77 Figaro of 5th February, 
later performances of Ernani were more successful, but UOcchio on 
16th February referred to Giuseppina's singing in Lucrezia Borgia 
as 'the useless efforts of an expiring voice'. On 9th March Merca- 
dante's La Vestale was given, together with the first act of Donizetti's 
Belisario, in which she again appeared. UOcchio reported: 

Signora Strepponi did not sing, but served only to represent in mime the 
character of Antonina, with the result that the very beautiful finale of the 
act fell as flat as the conqueror of Vitiges. 

With this appearance as a non-singing mime Giuseppina reached the 
nadir of her career. If we had letters from this period 1 we should 
probably find that she was passing through an emotional crisis as 
severe as that of three years before at Milan. What was to become of 
her, and her family and children? It is no wonder that, as the critic 
in La Fata Galante noted, her lassitude and continual distraction were 
apparent even when she was on the stage. 

It was more than seven months before she sang again, in Nabucco, 
at Alessandria. 

Two other operas were given, Donizetti's Maria di Rohan and 
Verdi's I due Foscari, but Giuseppina appeared only in Nabucco. She 
must have known that her career was nearing its end; it was necessary 
for it to end well. And for a limited number of performances, spread 
over rather more than a month, she renewed her former triumphs. On 
the last night of the season, 29th November, she was recalled quite 
twenty times and presented with the usual flowers and poems and in 
addition a golden wreath, inscribed with her praises in magniloquent 
language. 

1 A brief note to Andrea Peruzzi at Bologna, from Palermo, 6th March 1845, is in 
the library of the Conservatorio G.B. Martini, Bologna. 



178 THE MAN VERDI 

The Strenna teatrale europea for 1846, published towards the end of 
1845, included an article on Giuseppina Strepponi, with an account 
of her success at Alessandria. The article ended with this announce- 
ment : 

When la Strepponi has fulfilled the engagements which bind her still to 
the theatres of Italy (in the Carnival season she will be at Modena) she 
intends to betake herself to Paris, to continue her career wherever she may 
be required, and to propagate, as teacher of the true Italian bel canto, the 
art that made her so celebrated in the musical world. 

The engagement at Modena was actually to be Giuseppina's last. She 
was not involved in the grand fiasco with which the season there 
began, on 26th December 1845. I Lombardi, very badly performed 
and produced, was hissed off the stage, the hostility aroused in the 
audience being such that the police did not dare to intervene. The 
impresario, Pietro Rovaglia, made his escape before the end of the 
performance and far into the night the crowds in the streets were 
howling for his blood. The theatre was closed. On 29th December a 
bill was posted to say that the second opera of the season, Nabucco, 
was being prepared and that in it the part of Abigaille would be sung 
by Giuseppina Strepponi. In these circumstances the success of 
Nabucco on 11th January 1846 represented a personal triumph. // 
Pirata declared that no words could express the enthusiasm aroused 
by Abigaille' s aria in the second act: 'The applause seemed as though 
it would never stop: she was continually interrupted by acclamations 
and evvivas in the adagio and the cabaletta; at the end she was called 
back five times on to the stage.' / Lombardi was then revived, with 
other singers; Giuseppina did not appear in this opera, although 
Mercede Mundula says she did. The theatre was closed in the latter 
part of January owing to the death of the Duke of Modena and 
reopened on 1 1th February with Nabucco, in which, between that date 
and the end of the season, Giuseppina was seen and heard for the last 
time on the operatic stage. 

The removal to Paris, announced in the Strenna teatrale europea, 
was delayed until the autumn. An article in La France musicale for 
18th October 1846 announces her arrival in the city 'a few days ago'. 
It was a bold move, considering that she was unknown in Paris and 
had, indeed, except for her visit to Vienna in 1835, never been out of 
Italy before. But Paris was a great musical centre, exercising an almost 
irresistible attraction upon all composers and singers of that day. 
There was more money to be made there than anywhere else. Giusep- 
pina seems to have settled down comfortably in Paris, secured pupils 
and won friends. Verdi had given her a letter of introduction to the 
Escudier brothers. The article in La France musicale, their periodical, 
describes her artistic career and mentions also the esteem in which 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 179 

she was held personally : ' La Strepponi is known in Italy not only as 
a great singer, but still more as a woman of much wit and spirit. She 
has always been greatly sought after by the world of the nobility, 
who, after having applauded her on the stage, loved to applaud and 
admire her in their most brilliant gatherings.' She would be heard in 
two concerts shortly, when she would sing Verdi's song Lo Spazza- 
camino and the cavatina from Ernani. These concerts were announced 
in La France musicale for 25th October, to take place in the Salle 
Henri Herz, on 3rd and 5th November. On 15th November the 
following announcement appeared: 

Singing Lessons 

by 

Madame G. Strepponi 

The celebrated Strepponi, who made such a good impression at La 
France musicale' 's last two concerts, has decided to open a course of singing 
lessons for ladies, designed for the finishing of amateurs or artists who wish 
to acquire complete knowledge of the art. Since la Ungher and Duprez, 
who have perpetuated in Italy the school of lyric declamation, there has 
been no more intelligent interpreter of that school than la Strepponi. It is 
to this kind of music, above all, that she owes her great successes on the 
Italian stage, which has not prevented her from attacking the old repertoire 
which demands suppleness and great agility. Mme Strepponi comes to 
propagate in Paris, in the world and by tuition, a style, a method, which 
are in harmony with our tastes and constitution. We are convinced that, 
this winter, this eminent artist will enjoy a vogue in the fashionable world 
of Paris. 

Her lessons will take place at her house, twice a week, on Tuesdays and 
Fridays, from three to five o'clock. There will be eight lessons a month, 
at the price of 40 francs. For three months, 100 francs. 

Two long letters from Paris early in 1847, to Giovannina Lucca at 
Milan, show Giuseppina again taking an active interest in Verdi's 
affairs. The first, dated 5th January, 1 is principally concerned with 
Robert Bruce, the pasticcio with music by Rossini, recently per- 
formed at the Opera. But it includes also an inquiry after Verdi's 
health and a suggestion that the French rights in those of his operas 
published by Lucca should be sold to the Escudier brothers. The 
second letter, 2 dated 23rd February, tells how she had gone to the 
Escudier brothers' shop for some music and found them disconcerted 
by the peremptory tone of Lucca's letters and the unreasonably high 
figure he was demanding for the French rights in / Masnadieri. None 
of the operas they had bought from Ricordi, 'not excepting Macbeth 
which has every chance of a great success in Italy and is one of the 

1 In the Piancastelli Collection, Biblioteca Comunale, Forli. 

2 Carteggi verdiani, IV, pp. 252-3. The original is in the Pasini Collection, Biblioteca 
Queriniana, Brescia. 



180 THE MAN VERDI 

subjects best adapted to the French stage', had cost them more than 
3,000 francs. Lucca wanted 10,000 francs for / Masnadieri: 

I don't see how it advances your interest to dismember Verdi's operas, 
which, except Nabucco, have so far all passed into the hands of these 
publishers, by giving them to someone else, who perhaps up till now has 
been a most bitter opponent of this composer, and is only ready to buy 
one of these scores at a high price owing to personal spite. You must 
consider, not the momentary advantage of a few thousand francs, but the 
consequences. The Escudiers have always vigorously fought all Verdi's 
enemies (who are not few), and it is not fair to make them pay its weight 
in gold for an opera which, for Paris, has two great disadvantages — its 
subject and the fact of its being composed for London. But in spite of such 
disadvantages they want to have it, because they have all the other operas, 
and because they would like to be the sole publishers in France of Verdi's 
music, as Troupenas was of Rossini's, and as every great composer has his 
own particular publisher. 

In addition, if the score belongs to them, they are prepared to go to 
London to do everything possible to facilitate a brilliant success. However 
beautiful Verdi's music, it will certainly not be useless on such an occasion 
(in view of Meyerbeer, etc.) if someone takes a keen interest in him, and 
especially someone who knows the country. 

If the score does not belong to them it will not be surprising if they take 
the matter with the utmost calmness and stay quietly in Paris. 

I repeat : I am of the opinion that you should do everything possible in 
your own interests, but without extortion. I advise you, then, to come to 
terms with the Escudier brothers for many reasons, and I am convinced 
that Verdi would prefer these publishers to any other in Paris. 

At the end of both these letters Giuseppina thanks Giovannina 
Lucca for attentions paid to her son, or solicitude shown for his 
welfare. This suggests that Camillino was living at or near Milan: 
he was perhaps at school there. 

Meanwhile Verdi was serving his term of 'years in the galleys', 
when it seemed that, although he hated his career in the opera 
houses, he still could not bear to reject a contract that offered 
possibilities of gain; when he turned out opera after opera in an 
almost frenzied search for the wealth that alone could bring him 
independence. He managed his financial affairs with immense skill, 
turning the tables on the publishers in a way that few composers have 
ever been able to equal. But quite early in his life and career the idea 
of retirement recurs in his letters. On 21st April 1845 he told Demalde: 
'I look forward to the passing of these next three years. I have six 
operas to write, and then farewell to everything.' On 5th November 
1845, only three and a half years after the triumph of Nabucco, he 
was writing to a friend named Masi in Rome: 

Thanks for the news of Alzira, but more for remembering your poor 
friend, condemned continually to scribble notes. God save the ears of 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 181 

every good Christian from having to listen to them ! Accursed notes ! How 
am I, physically and spiritually? Physically I am well, but my mind is 
black, always black, and will be so until I have finished with this career 
that I abhor. And afterwards? It's useless to delude oneself. It will always 
be black. Happiness does not exist for me. 1 

It seems that he had some idea of a withdrawal from the scene, a la 
Rossini, as soon as he had made enough money. Already in May 

1844 he had bought some farm land at Le Roncole. And in October 

1845 he had acquired a large house, the former Palazzo Dordoni, at 
Busseto. 

The idea of retirement, of a quiet life, alternated and conflicted, 
however, with the idea of making ever increasing sums of money. 
'Who knows whether I shan't wake up one morning a millionaireV 
he wrote to Emilia Morosini. 'What a lovely word, with a full, 
lovely meaning! And how empty, in comparison, are words like 
"fame", "glory", "talent", etc.!' Impresarios in Paris, Madrid, St 
Petersburg and London were beginning to compete for his new 
operas, and their offers were tempting. 

The suggestion that Verdi should go to Paris had first arisen in 
1845. Muzio told Barezzi in secret on 26th May of that year: 'Signor 
Escudier, editor of the French Gazzetta Musicale, 2 has visited the 
Signor Maestro, and wanted a statuette to put in his office in Paris 
beside Rossini and Bellini. The Signor Maestro, after he has given the 
opera at Naples, is going straight to Paris with the aforesaid Signor 
Escudier, who will come from Paris to fetch him from Naples.' 
Nothing came of this at the time, owing to the delay in the production 
of Alzira at Naples and the pressure of other engagements. Invita- 
tions to compose an opera for Paris, received from Leon Pillet in 
November 1845 and February 1846, had to be regretfully declined. A 
letter from Verdi to Demalde, of 6th June 1846, expresses the wish 
to go to Paris, and suggests the intention of doing so, as soon as that 
should be possible. Demalde had reported some of the gossip of 
Verdi's enemies and rivals, and received this reply: 

If only it were true that one is coming who WAX finally annihilate Verdil 
All the better for him, all the better for Art, and all the better for me, too, 
for then I should be disembarrassed of the thousand annoyances I have 
now. Oh, if I could cede him all my contracts I would make him a present 
of 20,000 francs besides ! Then I should go at once to Paris, and instead 
of earning 20,000 or 24,000 francs an opera here, I should earn 80,000 or 
100,000 francs. 

1 Reproduced in facsimile in a German autograph dealer's catalogue, of which I have 
unfortunately lost the reference. The letter is also listed in V. A. Heck's catalogue No. 54, 
but without a reproduction. The autograph was in the possession of Leonardo Lapic- 
cirella at Florence in 1958. 

2 Actually La France musicale, the rival of Schlesinger's Gazette musicale. 



182 THE MAN VERDI 

A month later he had to tell a Parisian correspondent 1 that he would 
not be free to write for the Opera for another two years. 

It does not seem that there can have existed any very close personal 
relationship between Giuseppina Strepponi and Verdi at this time. 
After he had helped her to recover herself and resume her career their 
ways divided, and such connections as there were between them 
permitted Giuseppina not only to accept an engagement at Palermo 
for six months, but, in the following year, to leave Italy altogether, 
to go to stay for an indefinite period in Paris, at a time when Verdi's 
circumstances made it unlikely that he would be able to join her 
there, if he ever did think of Paris in connection with her, for a long 
time. Giuseppina needed desperately to earn money. Verdi was intent 
on doing the same thing. Paris offered the best field of exploitation 
for them both. But any suggestion that they may have accepted the 
necessity of a temporary separation while they each accumulated 
money is not supported by the evidence of their letters. Verdi's 
declaration to Masi, quoted above, that even after the longed-for 
withdrawal from the operatic scene he had no hope of happiness, is 
not that of a man who has solved his emotional problems, and found 
a fife companion to replace his first wife and his dead children. He 
had not been able to forget so soon. The only solution of such 
problems, while time goes by, is to throw oneself headlong into one's 
work to prevent oneself thinking. And work, even writing operas, 
and accumulating money, can become a habit-forming drug. A 
passage in a later letter from Giuseppina to Verdi, beginning ' Some- 
times I fear that the love of money will re-awaken in you and con- 
demn you to many further years of drudgery ', shows that she actually 
disapproved of his excessive preoccupation with financial gain during 
the 'years of the galleys'. 

This seems the best point at which to mention Abbiati's extra- 
ordinary statement that 'from a revealing document, still buried on 
the book shelves of Sanf Agata, we know that the first passionate 
lover's invocation, the first confession written and signed by Verdi 
kneeling at the feet of his beloved, dates from October 1846 '. 2 
Information given me at Sanf Agata, before and after the publica- 
tion of Abbiati's book, is that there was an envelope which Giusep- 
pina wished to be laid on her heart, after her death, and buried with 
her. Abbiati seems to think that the letter it contained is still in 
existence, though it cannot be found. He does not explain how he is 
able actually to quote from a letter that no living person has ever 
seen: 'One for the other ... we were born, we will live one for the 
other . . . united.' In a work full of imaginary conversations and all 

1 Probably Marie Escudier. The letter, dated 3rd July 1846, in possession of the 
Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, is published in an article ' Scoperte in 
America' by Renzo Bonvicini (La Scala, Oct. 1953). 

2 1, pp. 560-1. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 183 

the dubious devices of fictional biography it is impossible to decide 
even whether Abbiati intends us to take this as a literal quotation. 
But out of it he develops an elaborate fantasy, according to which 
Verdi proposed that she should secretly join him at Florence in the 
following year, for Macbeth. A miniature painting in the Gallini 
collection, according to Abbiati, represents Giuseppina at Florence, 
with the Tuscan hills seen through the window. He assumes that 
Camillino had already been settled at Florence, which is against all 
probability, and that Verdi and Giuseppina there decided upon their 
subsequent union in Paris. 

One can only hope that Verdi's declaration of love does still exist, 
and that it will one day be rediscovered. Meanwhile we must rely on 
the documents we have. They do not support Abbiati's imaginings. 

Giuseppina's letter to Giovannina Lucca of 5th January 1847, 
asks: 

Is Verdi at Milan? Tell me if his health has suffered any setback this 
year, and if he is in a good humour, for good humour, in him, is a sign 
of health. 

If she had been corresponding with him she would have known where 
he was, and how he was. And Verdi's indications of his intentions 
when, later in that year, he finally was able to visit Paris, dispose 
fairly conclusively of any idea that his re-encounter there with 
Giuseppina was pre-arranged. 

On the outward journey to London, for the production of / 
Masnadieri, Muzio and Verdi arrived in Paris on 1st June, at 7 a.m. 
Muzio left for London on the next day and Verdi on 4th June. Busy 
with the preparation of the new opera, Verdi wrote to Giuseppina 
Appiani from London on 27th June : 

I look forward to going to Paris, which has no particular seduction for 
me, but which I am sure to like because there I shall be able to live as I 
please. It 's a great pleasure to be able to do as one likes ! ! When I think 
that I shall be in Paris for several weeks, without being involved in musical 
affairs, without hearing a word about music (because I shall show the door 
to all publishers and impresarios), I almost swoon with relief. 

He arrived in Paris on 27th July. On the 29th he told the Countess 
Maffei: 'I shall not stay long in Paris, because I am beginning to get 
bored already, although I have been here only forty-eight hours,' and 
on the 30th he told Emilia Morosini: ' I have been here two days, and 
if my present boredom continues I shall very soon be back in Milan.' 
These are not the expressions of a lover keeping a tryst. 

In spite of his talk of 'showing the door' to all publishers and 
impresarios, and wishing to hear nothing about music, within a week 



184 THE MAN VERDI 

of his arrival Verdi had agreed to adapt / Lombardi to a new French 
libretto {Jerusalem) for the Opera. This was mentioned on 8th August 
in a letter from Muzio to Barezzi, which also announced that Muzio 
himself was leaving that day for Milan, and Verdi staying in Paris. 
Muzio was sent back to Milan to supervise the publication of / 
Masnadieri; the necessity for this had been foreseen and already 
mentioned in a letter from Verdi to the Countess Maffei on 29th 
July. Muzio expected to return to Paris in November, or earlier if he 
was needed. Verdi himself, by his agreement with the Opera, was 
committed to remaining in Paris until the production of Jerusalem in 
November, but he still thought he would be returning to Milan 
directly afterwards; on 22nd August he told Giuseppina Appiani: 
'I shall be staying here until about 20th November: at the end of that 
month I shall see again the cupola of the duomo' By 1st November 
he was less certain and wrote to Barezzi: 'I don't know whether I 
shall be returning to Italy this winter. For a year I have been working 
day and night: I am tired of it and have need of a little relief! I 
haven't yet decided what I shall do.' 1 Jerusalem was produced on 
26th November. On 3rd December Verdi wrote to the Countess 
Maffei: 'I shall stay here for some time yet, to arrange various 
matters and also to be a long way from Signor Lucca, this tiresome 
and ungrateful man, who has prevented me from signing a contract 
for 60,000 francs, and another that would have made my fortune, 
without any disadvantage to Signor Lucca.' He was snared in a 
tangle of contracts, actual and prospective, and Lucca had refused to 
release him from an engagement to compose a new opera for the 
Carnival season of 1848. As a result he had to start work almost at 
once on // Corsaro, in which he took little interest. The creation of 
Jerusalem by the mutilation of / Lombardi, and the hasty and unwill- 
ing composition of // Corsaro to rid himself of an inconvenient 
contract, were the least conscientious actions of Verdi's career. He 
was paid for Jerusalem as for a new opera, and was even able to sell 
the score to Ricordi over again, under the new title; // Corsaro was 
sold outright to Lucca for 24,000 francs. On 14th January 1848 
Verdi told Piave that he had a contract on hand for another new 
opera, to be written for the Opera on a libretto by Scribe; he was only 
waiting to hear whether a certain singer would be available before 
signing the contract. 'I am well', the letter ends, 'but I look forward 
to returning to Italy. I hope that my affairs will be settled here in a 
month's time.' Listlessness and uncertainty about the future are 
apparent in a letter to Luigi Toccagni of 24th January : 2 

What do you want me to say about myself? That I am always the same, 

1 From a letter published by Alberto Lisoni in an article 'Verdi e Barezzi', in Per 
VArte (Parma) for 27th February 1901. 

2 O. Tiby, 'Una lettera inedita di Verdi' (Giornale di Sicilia, 5th Jan. 1952). 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 185 

always discontented with everything? When fortune favours me I want it 
against me; when it is against me I want it to favour me; when I am at 
Milan I would like to be in Paris ; now that I am in Paris I would like to 
be — where? — I don't know — on the moon. For the rest I enjoy here 
complete personal freedom, such as I have always desired without ever 
being able to obtain it. I don't visit anybody, I don't receive anybody, 
nobody knows me and I don't have the annoyance of seeing myself 
pointed at, as in Italian cities. I enjoy good health; I write a lot; my affairs 
go well; everything goes well except my head, which I always hope will 
change, and which never does change. Farewell. 

The contract with the Opera was finally signed early in February, and 
// Corsaro completed at about the same time. Arrangements were 
actually made for Verdi to return to Italy, and Muzio was expecting 
his arrival at Milan on 17th February. But instead there arrived a 
letter, dated from Paris on the 12th, to say that Verdi had caught a 
feverish cold on the eve of his intended departure. These matters are 
also mentioned in a letter to Vincenzo Luccardi, the sculptor, of 
17th February: 1 

I have written an opera for the publisher Lucca of Milan, and I was 
counting on taking it to Italy myself, but I decided to send it because I 
didn't feel fit to undertake the long and tiring journey at this time of year. 
Now I shall rest for some few days or some few weeks and then begin work 
on the opera for Naples. 

It has been necessary to quote these passages from Verdi's corre- 
spondence in order to show that he was continually planning to 
return to Italy. Nothing could be further from the truth than Gatti's 
statement: 'He does not speak of returning to his country.' 2 The 
return, however, was again and again deferred, owing first to the 
contract with the Opera for Jerusalem, and then to negotiations for a 
further contract, to a desire to avoid Lucca and finally to illness. 
During this time he was certainly seeing something of Giuseppina 
Strepponi and, unconsciously, his growing affection for her may have 
influenced his repeated decisions to defer the moment of his return to 
Italy. But Verdi was not a liar. He was bored when he first went to 
Paris, if he said so; he did look forward to returning to Italy; he was 
prevented by illness from undertaking the journey in February. The 
evidence is all against the conclusions of recent Italian writers who, 
building on the shaky foundations of some of Gatti's more incautious 
passages, have decided that the reunion with Giuseppina in Paris was 
pre-arranged, and that Muzio was sent back to Milan because of this 
reunion and deceived as to Verdi's real intentions. This point of view 

1 E. Faustini-Fasini, 'Una lettera inedita di Giuseppe Verdi' (Le cronache musicali, 
1st Feb. 1901). 

2 First edition, I, p. 305; second edition, p. 242. 



186 THE MAN VERDI 

is presented in extreme form by Emilio Radius in his Verdi Vivo 
(Milan, 1951), described as 'the nonconformist book of the quin- 
quagenary', and of course by Abbiati. 

How do we know that Verdi was seeing something of Giuseppina 
in Paris? Hitherto it has been assumed that he was, without proof, 
but a document of remarkable interest has recently come to light at 
Sant' Agata which puts the matter beyond all doubt. Verdi's little 
known letter to Antonio Barezzi of 1st November 1847, already 
quoted, includes the following passage: 

I have never believed, do not believe, nor shall I ever believe, that you 
are capable of moving yourself out of that nutshell of yours. There are so 
many beautiful and ugly things worth seeing, and you, who have the 
means, stay shut up there all the time ! If you travelled a bit you wouldn't 
have that trouble with your feet, and would have many other advantages 
which it is useless to describe. When I 've finished my career, if I have a 
few thousand francs to spare, I shall go to see the most interesting countries 
outside Europe. And you — don't you want to see the principal European 
ones? 

Barezzi had thoroughly enjoyed himself during his visit to Florence 
for the performance of Macbeth earlier in this year. So he decided to 
follow his son-in-law's advice and take a trip to Paris. The new 
document is a letter from Giuseppe Demalde ('Finola') to Verdi, 
dated 31st January 1848, to which Barezzi on 3rd February added a 
page showing that he had recently returned to Busseto from Paris, 
where he had been introduced to Giuseppina Strepponi, from whom 
he was expecting a letter : 

Since my arrival at Busseto from Paris never a day has passed without 
my relating the wonderful things I saw on my journey and the kind recep- 
tion I had there from you, from Signora Peppina and from your other 
friends, and I assure you that such memories will remain engraved in my 
heart for ever. . . . You give me hopes of a letter from Signora Peppina 
and I must tell you that I am anxiously awaiting it. Meanwhile give her 
my regards, together with her ladies, whom I found so kind. 

Barezzi, clearly, had been charmed. He had also brought back 
greetings from Giuseppina to Demalde, who had evidently met her 
earlier, at Milan or Parma. Demalde wrote: 

How is Signora Peppina? I reciprocate her greetings with all my heart. 
Tell her that I remember her because I have reason to appreciate her gifts, 
her fine mind and her virtues. How I should like to see her! 

In February Verdi witnessed the overthrow of Louis Philippe and 
the proclamation of the French Republic, with little bloodshed. He 
wrote about this, in a good humour, to Giuseppina Appiani on 9th 
March : 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 187 

You will know all about events in Paris: since 24th February nothing 
has happened. The procession accompanying the dead to the funerary 
column of the Bastille was imposing, magnificent, and although there 
were neither troops nor police to maintain order there was not the slightest 
disturbance. The grand National Assembly, to decide on the government, 
will be on 20th April. ... I can't hide from you the fact that I am enjoying 
myself very much, and so far nothing has happened to disturb my sleep. 
I'm not doing anything; I go out for walks; I hear so much rot that I 
couldn't hear more ; I buy about twenty newspapers a day (without reading 
them, of course) to avoid persecution by the vendors: when they see a 
bundle of papers in my hand no one offers me others, and I laugh and 
laugh and laugh. Unless something important calls me to Italy I shall stay 
here until the end of April to see the National Assembly. 

He still talks of returning to Italy. 'Something important' was to call 
him there before the end of April. On 18th March the Milanese rose 
against their Austrian masters and forced their withdrawal from the 
city in the heroic ' Five Days ' of fighting in the streets. On 22nd March 
the Venetians also threw off the yoke and proclaimed a republic. 

There has been until recently some doubt about Verdi's actions 
when he heard of the revolution at Milan. It is an extraordinary 
thing that in the Italian edition of Pougin's biography, issued by 
Verdi's own publisher in his lifetime, a special footnote was added by 
' Folchetto ' to the effect that the composer was feverishly impatient 
to return to Milan as soon as he heard the news, but that he stopped 
at Lyons on the way, uncertain whether he would be in time to see 
the city free of the Austrians, and then heard there of the sad reversal 
of all his hopes. This story, repeated by other early biographers, 
ignores the fact that four and a half months passed between the out- 
break of the revolution and the return of the Austrians. In reality 
Verdi went straight back to Milan. All doubts about his actions were 
swept away by the publication in 1948 of the following magnificent 
letter, addressed to 'Citizen Francesco Maria Piave, Venice': 1 

Milan, 21st April 1848. 
Dear Friend, 

Imagine whether I wished to remain in Paris, hearing of a revolution at 
Milan ! I left immediately I heard the news, but was only able to see these 
stupendous barricades. Honour to these brave men! Honour to all Italy, 
which at this moment is truly great ! 

The hour has sounded — be convinced of it — of her liberation. It is the 
people that wills it, and when the people wills there is no absolute power 
that can resist. 

They can do what they like, they can intrigue how they like, those that 
want to impose themselves by main force, but they will not succeed in 

1 Una lettera di Giuseppe Verdi finora non pubblicata, ed. A. Bonaventara (Florence, 
1948). 



188 THE MAN VERDI 

defrauding the people of their rights. Yes, yes, a few more years, perhaps 
only a few more months, and Italy will be free, united and a republic. 
What else should she be? 

You talk of music to me! ! What are you thinking of? Do you imagine 
I want to occupy myself now with notes, with sounds? There is, and should 
be, only one kind of music pleasing to the ears of the Italians of 1848 — 
the music of the guns ! I would not write a note for all the gold in the 
world : I should feel immense remorse for using up music paper, which is 
so good to make cartridges with. My brave Piave, and all brave Venetians, 
banish every petty municipal idea ! Let us all reach out a fraternal hand, 
and Italy will yet become the first nation of the world. 

You are in the National Guard? I am glad that you are just a simple 
soldier. What a fine soldier! Poor Piave! How do you sleep? How do you 
eat? I, too, if I could have enrolled, would have wished to be just a simple 
soldier, but now I can only be a tribune, and a wretched tribune at that, 
because I am only spasmodically eloquent. 

I must return to France on account of engagements and business affairs. 
Besides the annoyance of having to write two operas, I have various sums 
of money to collect there and many others in bank-notes to cash. I left 
everything behind me there, but I cannot disregard what is for me a large 
sum of money, and my presence there will be necessary to salve, in the 
present crisis, at least a part of it. For the rest, come what may, I 'm not 
worrying. If you saw me now you would not recognize me. My appearance 
would no longer alarm you, as it used to do! I am drunk with joy! Only 
think, there are no more Germans here! ! You know what sort of sympathy 
I had for them. Farewell. Farewell. My regards to everyone. A thousand 
greetings to Venturi and Fontana. 

Write to me soon, because if I go away it won't be so soon — my return, 

I mean. Farewell, my friend. Write to me. 

Giuseppe. 

Verdi had reached Milan early in April. A comparatively short 
section of the journey could be made by rail at this date, and the rest 
by stagecoach. It took Mazzini, who had every reason to hurry, six 
days to get from Paris to Milan, travelling day and night, via Switzer- 
land. What Verdi says about his becoming a tribune is of the greatest 
interest and suggests that if the republicans had won the struggle for 
power he would have held political office. Mazzini, whom he had 
met in London in the previous year, and with whom he was un- 
doubtedly in close touch at this time, intended to make use of the 
prestige and glamour of the composer's name. 

At the beginning of May Verdi was at Busseto, where he arranged 
to purchase the house and farm lands of Sant' Agata, surrendering 
in part exchange his much smaller possessions, acquired in 1844, at 
Le Roncole. One other short letter from Italy is known, written to 
Cammarano from Como on 31st May on the way back to Paris. 

Without further letters between 21st April and 31st May we can 
yet be sure of the thoughts that were in Verdi's mind. The radiant 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 189 

hopes and the bitter disillusionment of all republicans can be read in 
Mazzini's own letters from Milan. The Provisional Government, at 
first divided in its allegiance, tended more and more to move to the 
Right, to support the ambitions of Carlo Alberto, without whose inter- 
vention with the Piedmontese army the revolution would probably 
have been crushed by Radetzky in a very short time. Mazzini 
wished political decisions on the future of Italy to be deferred until 
the war was won. 'My name, influential among the young', he wrote 
on 28th April, 'is suspect among men who subordinate the necessities 
of the war to diplomatic intrigue, to which I am naturally averse. My 
advice prevails sometimes, but, the day after, the energetic decisions 
taken evaporate as if by enchantment. ... It seems that the Italians 
don't know how to be great and free, except behind the barricades.' 
On 18th May he wrote: 'I am nauseated by the intrigues here for the 
triumph of Carlo Alberto ; nauseated by the Provisional Government; 
nauseated by everything, almost.' And in the following month: 'Fear, 
intrigue, materialism and ignorance govern the Italians today.' When 
Verdi left Italy to return to Paris the war was not yet lost, but the 
republican cause was doomed. 

On 2nd June, while Verdi was still en route, Giuseppina Strepponi 
sat down in Paris to write to her old friend and former colleague at 
Florence, Pietro Romani. Some time before this she had provided 
a French singer with an introduction to Romani, at the request of 
the mother of one of her pupils. Romani had replied in affectionate 
terms, and asked her to write at greater length, which she now did, 
explaining that the occasion and her own diffidence and distrust 
had been responsible for the formal nature of her earlier letter: 1 
'So many things 1 thought impossible have happened, that I tend 
to doubt everything and everybody.' This time she wrote without 
constraint: 

I know very well that quavers and semiquavers are ineffective against 
rifle and cannon-shot, by the ancient law of 'Might is right'. But all the 
notes in the world might go to the devil if there were room for hope that 
Italy could become great, united, strong and free ! But too many crowned 
heads still oppress her ! I had a moment of great hope, when the Milanese 
drove the Germans from their city; but now things have taken a turn for 
the worse. The Italians cannot renounce party spirit; they are always 
arguing — too much talk and too little action! Blood flows in impetuous, 
generous revolutions, but they have insufficient firmness to hold fast to the 
fruits of their sacrifices! They forget how much it cost to cast down a 
throne, and they raise another one, as if one couldn't live without a king! 
It is true that we shall be ruled by an Italian king, but Carlo Alberto's 
antecedents are not very favourable to the hope of a free constitution, 

1 Both letters are in the Piancastelli Collection at Forli. The second letter was pub- 
lished in incomplete form in Le cronache musicali for 10th February 1901. 



190 THE MAN VERDI 

scrupulously observed. God grant he may not renew the betrayals of 1821 
and imitate the Tartuffe who reigns at Naples ! . . . 

Here, as in Italy, people think only of politics. Some theatres are, or 
have been, closed. The artists under annual contract, those of the Grand 
Opera not excepted, have been put on half-pay, or their salaries greatly 
reduced. I say nothing of the teachers of singing, of the pianoforte, etc. ! 
They have time to take as many walks as they please. I had begun the 
winter quite well, but the revolution in February came and cut short every 
musical resource. I haven't left Paris because, having set up house here, I 
should have lost much in selling my furniture at a time when money is 
short, and I should have incurred useless expenses in travelling. And then, 
where should I have gone, to do good business? To Italy? I am sure that 
Lanari must be losing a lot of money, and I am amazed that he doesn't 
put his artists on half-pay, as it's a case of extraordinary circumstances, 
but provided for in the contracts — war, guerilla war, etc. You envy me 
because I am out of Italy? You are wrong, for here the artists are as badly 
off as in Italy, and what with political agitations one is never sure of a quiet 
night's rest. So much for your guidance! You ask about my voice? How I 
am amusing myself? My voice has suffered and is as it was at the end of 
my time with Lanari. I am not amusing myself at all, because what is 
amusement to so many others is boredom to me. Winter is the brilliant 
season in Paris — society, balls, festivities, dinners, etc. Well, when I am 
obliged to sing at some house or other, I stay just as long as is necessary, 
and then run home. I don't like dancing, I don't like dinners, and if I had 
enough to live on without working I should perhaps stay in Paris for the 
freedom one enjoys here, but they would not see me any more, anywhere. 

We find views expressed here that are absolutely identical with those 
of Verdi. More than that : not only were they both passionate repub- 
licans, not only do they say the same things about the respective 
claims of music and patriotism, they do so in the very same voice. 
The first paragraph quoted is probably a direct reflection of the lost 
letters Verdi wrote Giuseppina from Milan. 

The evidence of the addresses used by Verdi supports the belief 
that it was at this time that he and Guiseppina declared their love for 
each other and began to live together. The stay in Paris, that was to 
have lasted only a few weeks and, repeatedly extended, actually 
lasted more than two years, was twice interrupted — first by the 
return to Milan when news arrived of the revolution, and then by a 
visit to Rome for the production of La Battaglia di Legnano. Before 
the return to Milan he wrote letters from 6 Rue neuve St Georges 
(1st November 1847, to Barezzi, and 17th February 1848, to Luc- 
cardi). He was back in Paris early in June, after which he gave a 
poste restante address (22nd July, to Piave). Pougin's original French 
biography here provides some important information, obviously 
based on inquiries in Paris. Pougin states that when Verdi returned 
from Milan he ' established himself at Passy, under the shady avenues 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 191 

of Ranelagh, a sojourn which was delicious during the heat of 
summer'. 1 It was of Passy, undoubtedly, that Giuseppina was 
thinking when, in a letter to the Countess MafTei in 1867, she recalled 
how she had persuaded Verdi to leave Paris and take a little house in 
the country, not far from the capital. Passy was then still an isolated 
village. A letter from Verdi to the Neapolitan impresario Guillaume, 
of 24th August 1848, refers to an absence from Paris of about a 
month, as a result of which he had only just seen Guillaume's letter 
of 29th July. 

It seems fairly established, then, that in the summer of 1848 Verdi 
and Giuseppina were living together at Passy. It is quite certain that 
in the following winter they were living together, or in adjoining 
rooms, at 13 Rue de la Victoire. Pougin gives this as Verdi's address 
after his return from Rome; Verdi himself gives it (13 bis, however) 
as Giuseppina's address in a letter written in Rome. 2 

It has been rightly said that this was not a case of love's young 
dream. He was nearly thirty-five and she nearly thirty-three. They 
both had behind them bitter experiences; Verdi's mind had been 
stamped with pessimism for ever by the annihilation of his family, 
and a natural strain of melancholy in Giuseppina had been accen- 
tuated by her passion for Moriani and its consequences. They had 
both come to loathe the false glamour of the theatrical world. But 
already they had many memories in common, and Giuseppina's 
immediate, intuitive understanding, and Verdi's moral integrity, 
his kindness and reliability, shone out from the past and promised, 
more and more, to illuminate the future. They were born for each 
other, and their union, with or without the blessing of the Church, 
was of inestimable benefit to them both. For fifty years, now, their 
lives were to be joined. 

It really seems that the revolutions of 1848, in Paris and Milan, 
played a decisive part in bringing them together. They were two 
Italians, old friends now, in a foreign city, when the hopes they both 
cherished suddenly seemed on the point of being realized. Corn- 
patriotic feeling, common ideals, excitement and dangers shared, 
the release from restraint that a moment of crisis brings — these must 
have helped to throw them into each other's arms. 

The vocal score of Gerusalemme, the Italian version of the adapta- 
tion of / Lombardi produced in Paris, is dedicated to Giuseppina 
Strepponi. But the dedication is by Ricordi, not by Verdi, who, one 

1 Pougin, in a biography written at a time when hardly any of Verdi's letters were 
available, inevitably made many mistakes. He assumed, for instance, that II Corsaro, 
performed at Trieste on 25th October 1848, was written shortly before that date, and 
therefore at Passy, and that Verdi went to Trieste for the first performance, as was his 
usual custom. It is easy to correct such mistakes now. But Pougin, many of whose books 
are still valuable for their documentation, knew what he was talking about when he gave 
Verdi's Parisian addresses after the return from Milan and after the return from Rome. 

2 To Duponchel and Roqueplan, 15th January 1849, Copialettere, p. 66. 



192 THE MAN VERDI 

cannot help thinking, would have wished to set her name, if at all, 
on a better work. 

The political disillusionment already apparent in Giuseppina's 
letter to Romani, and certainly shared by Verdi himself, was to go 
much further. A few more weeks were to see the catastrophic reversal 
of all their hopes, in Italy as in France. Mazzini, from Milan, wrote 
to George Sand in Paris on 12th June: 'Reaction prevails here, as it 
does in your country. They calumniate us; they threaten us; they 
write on the walls: "Death to the Republicans!" They send me 
anonymous letters to say I must prepare for death by the dagger.' 
In Paris, from 23rd to 26th June, a desperate insurrection by an 
armed mob was bloodily quelled by General Cavaignac. This was 
witnessed by Verdi and Giuseppina, and may have contributed to their 
decision to move out to Passy. Verdi wrote to Piave on 22nd July: 

I don't know how long I shall stay in this chaos. Have you heard about 
this last revolution? What horrors, my dear Piave! Heaven grant they 
may be the last! And Italy? Poor country!!! I read and re-read the 
newspapers, hoping always for good news, but . . . And you, why don't 
you ever write to me? It seems to me that at just such moments as these 
friends should remember friends! . . . Let's hope for happier times. But I 
am frightened when I glance at France, and then at Italy. 

Three days later the Italian armies were defeated at Custoza and 
driven back through Lombardy. Milan surrendered to the Austrians 
on 5th August. Verdi's name, together with that of his friend Giulio 
Carcano and eight others, appeared on the desperate and vain appeal 
for French intervention laid before Cavaignac by Guerrieri Gonzaga, 
of the Provisional Government of Lombardy, on 8th August. The 
armistice of Salasco was signed on 10th August. 

In well-grounded fear of Austrian reprisals, a mass emigration from 
Milan had taken place. More than 120,000 persons, or three-quarters 
of the inhabitants of the city, fled to Piedmont or Switzerland. There 
are heart-rending accounts, by eye-witnesses, of the columns of exiles 
on the roads, in the burning sun and dust, or, physically exhausted, 
assembled in silent wretchedness just across the Ticino, the frontier of 
Piedmont. The Countess Maffei, whose salon at Milan had been a 
centre of Italian national feeling, took refuge in Switzerland, as did 
Carcano and Muzio. Mazzini himself withdrew to Lugano early in 
August. 

Verdi wrote to the Countess Maffei, who had asked him what was 
the French reaction to events in Italy: 'Those who are not hostile 
are indifferent. The idea of Italian unity frightens these little men, 
these nullities, that are in power. France will certainly not intervene 
with her armed forces, unless some event impossible to foresee drags 
her in, in spite of herself. Franco-British diplomatic intervention 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 193 

cannot be anything but iniquitous, shameful for France and ruinous 
for us.' If Austria could be induced to give up Lombardy, retaining 
only Venetia, the republican and national cause would not be 
advanced: 'The result for us would be an additional insult, the 
devastation of Lombardy, and an additional prince in Italy.' He 
thought it possible that disturbances in Austria might yet bring 
another opportunity: 'If we know how to seize the right moment, 
and wage the war that must be waged, the war of insurrection, Italy 
can yet be free. But God save us from putting trust in our kings and 
in foreign nations.' In France there was little cause for optimism: 
'I believe another revolution is imminent: it is in the air. Another 
revolution will bring about the collapse of this poor republic. Let's 
hope it doesn't happen, but there is grave reason to fear it.' Six weeks 
later he wrote again: 'I can find no consoling words to say to you 
about our poor Italy. Happy you, who have still some hope! I have 
none.' Cavaignac, in the Assembly, had refused to reply to questions 
about Italy and negotiations on her behalf. 'What a fine republic!' 
Verdi concluded bitterly. 

Nevertheless, on 18th October he sent Mazzini a battle hymn 
'Suona la tromba', a setting of words by the patriot poet Goffredo 
Mameli, and expressed the hope that it might 'soon be sung, amid 
the music of the guns, on the plains of Lombardy'. A fine phrase from 
an earlier, lost letter is preserved in Mazzini's appeal to Mameli for 
the poem : ' Send me a hymn that may become the Italian ' Marseillaise ', 
and of which the people, to use Verdi's phrase, may forget both 
composer and poet.' But 'Suona la tromba' was not destined to 
become the Italian 'Marseillaise'. 

Verdi's patriotic feelings found more convincing expression in the 
opera La Battaglia di Legnano, written at Passy and Paris in this 
autumn and early winter. Originally intended for Naples, it was 
offered to the Teatro Argentina in Rome when the Neapolitan con- 
tract fell through. Republican hopes were now centred on develop- 
ments in the Papal States and Tuscany. Garibaldi was recruiting in 
Romagna. Pio Nono was no longer in control of events. It would be 
unseemly, perhaps, to compare a Pope to the Sorcerer's Apprentice. 
But he had certainly, by his well-meant liberal measures, set in motion 
forces that could no longer be checked. Soon he was to reap the 
whirlwind. He had found his name used in connection with every sort 
of revolutionary ferment throughout the peninsula, until, with the 
Allocution published on 29th April 1848, he had made clear that the 
Risorgimento did not, after all, enjoy the papal blessing. And with 
the Allocution his popularity had disappeared overnight : revolution 
in Rome almost came at this time. Then the failure of Carlo Alberto 
in north Italy had swung opinion away from Piedmont and strengthened 
the hands of the Mazzinian republicans. Pellegrino Rossi, called to 



194 THE MAN VERDI 

power on 16th September, a strong man who might have been able to 
restore order in the Papal States, was murdered by the extremists on 
15th November, and on 24th November the Pope fled, disguised as a 
simple priest, to Gaeta, in the Kingdom of Naples. 

Verdi left Paris for Rome on 20th December. La Battaglia di 
Legnano was performed on 12th January 1849 amid scenes of hectic 
excitement, within a fortnight of the proclamation of the Roman 
republic, during the 'Dictatorship of Sterbini', who is generally 
considered to have planned the murder of Rossi. The last act of La 
Battaglia di Legnano was encored at every performance. Back in Paris 
with Giuseppina, Verdi wrote on 1st February to Piave in besieged 
Venice : 

1 left Rome with sorrow, but I hope to return there very soon. I am 
trying somehow to put in order the tangled affairs I have here, then I shall 
fly to Italy. God bless you, my good Venetians ! Whatever the outcome, 
you will certainly have the benediction and the gratitude of every good 
Italian. I am happy about Rome and Romagna, and in Tuscany, too, things 
are not going wholly badly. We have cause for great hopes. Two things, 
however, frighten me: Gioberti and the Congress of Brussels. God save us! 
. . . There is nothing to hope from France, and now less than ever. 

We see that it was his intention to return soon to Rome, where the 
republic was proclaimed on 8th February. But events in northern 
Italy in the next month again destroyed his hopes. Carlo Alberto 
denounced the armistice and on 20th March his troops advanced into 
Lombardy again. It took Radetzky exactly four days to crush this 
move, by a feint retreat from Milan and a strong forward thrust from 
Pavia into Piedmont itself, where the battle of Novara on 23rd March 
brought the capitulation and the abdication of Carlo Alberto. After 
this the collapse of the Roman republic was only a matter of time, 
with the intervention, at the Pope's request, of France, Austria, 
Spain and Naples. The Austrians entered Florence, to restore the 
Grand Duke, on 25th May; the heroic defence of Rome ended early 
in July; Garibaldi began his epic retreat across the peninsula on the 
3rd, and on the next day the French troops entered Rome. Verdi 
wrote to Luccardi on 14th July : ' Don't let 's talk of Rome ! What good 
would it do? Force still rules the world. And justice? What use is it 
against bayonets? All we can do is to weep over our wrongs, and 
curse the authors of so many misfortunes.' Twelve days later he 
announced in another letter that he would be leaving Paris in three 
days' time. It is generally stated, following Pougin, that the return of 
Verdi and Giuseppina to Italy was occasioned by the cholera epidemic 
in Paris, which aroused the anxiety of his parents. It seems also likely 
that disgust at the part played by the French in the murder of a sister 
republic made further residence among them intolerable. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 195 

All hope was over now, for a long time. The millenium had not 
arrived. 

Verdi returned to Busseto, where he established himself in his 
house, the Palazzo Dordoni, now Palazzo Orlandi, in the main 
street. 1 He was busy completing Luisa Miller, for production at 
Naples later in the year. Giuseppina, at the end of August, was at 
Florence, putting her own affairs in order. We have two letters from 
Florence, written within a few days of each other, the first to Lanari, 
the second to Verdi himself: 

Florence, 31st August 1849. 
Dear Lanari, 

I am at Florence for a few days and staying at the Albergo della Luna, 
Via Condotti. If it's not too inconvenient come and see me, and tell 
Tonino that I am here and want to salute him. Do me the favour also of 
asking Stefano for Livia's address, which I have lost, or better still arrange 
to send her to me at once. 

Your affectionate friend, 

G. Strepponi. 

Florence, 3rd September 1849. 

I shall have finished my business by Wednesday and shall perhaps leave 
for Parma on the same evening. Don't come to fetch me, however, until 
Friday evening or Saturday morning, because I should be sorry if you had 
to wait for me in vain at Parma. When I tell you who has charged himself 
with Camillino's artistic education, you will be astonished ! It must suffice 
for now that I kissed the hands of the famous man who said to me: 'Will 
you confide him to me? ' I have seen only a few people at Florence, but they 
have worked with zeal and, be it noted, mere acquaintances. No aristocrats, 
of course. In truth, sometimes one finds a heart where one expects only 
indifference, and vice versa. 

Farewell, my joy ! Now that I have almost finished my business, business 
too important to be neglected, I should like to be able to fly to your side. 
You speak of the unattractive country, the bad service, and furthermore 
you tell me: 'If you don't like it, I'll have you accompanied (N.B. I'll 
have you accompanied!) wherever you like.' But what the devil! Does one 

1 Researches by Signorina Gabriella Carrara- Verdi in the notarial archives at Parma 
show that this fine house was sold by Count Annibale Dordoni, early in the nineteenth 
century, to a certain Antonio Cavalli, who resold it to his son Contardo on 24th 
December 1825. Verdi, by deed of Ercolano Balestra, notary of Busseto, bought it from 
Contardo Cavalli on 6th October 1845 for 22,000 Parmesan lire. 

Verdi refers to it as 'Casa Cavalli' and 'Casa ex-Cavalli' in some notes at the end 
of the first volume of his autograph Copialettere. Payment was by instalments : 
For Casa Cavalh: 

6th October 1845, first instalment 10,000 

legal expenses 834.35 

present 66.30 

29th December paid as second instalment . . . 4,000 

May 1846 paid 6,000 

Under the heading 'My property': 

'Casa ex-Cavalli, which now belongs to me, entirely paid for, lire 22,900.65.' 



196 THE MAN VERDI 

forget to love people at Busseto, and to write with a little bit of affection? 

I'm not there yet, so can still write what I feel, which is that the country, 
the service and everything else will suit me very well, as long as you are 
there, you ugly, unworthy monster! 

Farewell. Farewell. I have scarcely time to tell you that I detest you and 
embrace you. 

Peppina. 

N.B. Don't send anybody else, but come yourself to fetch me from 
Parma, for I should be very embarrassed to be presented at your house by 
anyone other than yourself. 

It seems clear that one of the purposes of Giuseppina's trip to 
Florence was to settle Camillino there, in the care probably of that 
'Livia' mentioned in the first of these letters. She is mentioned once 
before in the earlier letters to Lanari; on 19th February 1842 Giusep- 
pina had written: 'I hear that Livia' s mother is dangerously ill, so 
that she's terribly upset. Please send her 20 Florentine lire, and put 
it down to my account.' This person can be identified as Livia 
Zanobini, whose address at Florence is given in a letter to Mauro 
Corticelli of 17th February 1864, 1 and to whom Giuseppina was 
sending money, as many entries in her letter-books 2 show, up to as 
late as 1884. The 'famous man' who had charged himself with 
Camillino's artistic education was, as is seen from a later letter to 
Verdi, the sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini. 

One cannot help wondering why the now eleven-year-old Camillino 
was established at Florence, and why a man like Bartolini should 
have taken any interest in him. Had the boy's father, perhaps, been 
persuaded to do something for him? Moriani, his singing career now 
practically over, was living at Florence. He had retired, in effect, 
about two and a half years after Giuseppina had done so. II Pirata 
of 8th July 1848 reported what were almost his last public appearances, 
at Florence, in Mercadante's // Bravo. 3 The poet Giusti, whose 
acquaintance Verdi had made in 1847, and by whom he had also been 
introduced to Bartolini, had been the great friend of Moriani's 
youth. 4 Did he know about Verdi's friendship with Giuseppina, and 
on this account persuade Moriani and Bartolini to do something to 
help her? Was he among those Florentine acquaintances in whom 
she had found a heart where she expected only indifference? 

1 In the Scala Museum. 

2 At Sant' Agata. 

3 He reappeared at the Pergola theatre, Florence, during the Carnival and Lent 
seasons of 1 857, in Donizetti's Maria Padilla. 

4 Giusti's caustic poem, Per un reuma d'un cantante, of 1 840, is undoubtedly addressed 
to Moriani. The poet recalls the days when they were both law students at the University 
of Pisa: 

'V'e tal che, mentre canti e in bella guisa 
Lodi e monete accatastando vai, 
Rammenta i dolci che non tornan mai 
Tempi di Pisa.' 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 197 

Moriani's papers are today in the possession of the Scala Museum. 
They include a number of letters to his wife Elvira, from the years 
1838-44, which reveal him as an affectionate husband and father. 
Four children are mentioned. According to Luigi Neretti, 1 these 
papers originally included a letter from Giuseppina herself to Mauro 
Corticelli, dated 10th October 1864, which is unfortunately no longer 
among them. How did this letter come into Moriani's hands? And 
what has happened to it? 

It is impossible, at present, to answer these questions. 

Her business at Florence concluded, Giuseppina, early in Sep- 
tember 1849, arrived at Busseto. It was an historic moment when 
Verdi's carriage drew up at the Palazzo Dordoni and the amazed and 
scandalized bystanders and idlers under the arcades saw him dismount 
and enter the house in company with a strange woman. The door 
closed, and Busseto was provided with a subject for gossip for the 
next ten years. 

In Paris it had been possible to live alone among the crowds, but 
here in this small town, where everybody knew everybody else's 
business, or wanted to do so, the situation was very different. Perhaps 
Verdi had insufficiently considered this when he brought Giuseppina 
to Busseto. It is true, as we have seen from her letter to him, that he 
had offered to go elsewhere with her if she wished. 

At Busseto Verdi had enthusiastic followers and well-wishers, but 
also enemies. The clerical party had not forgotten their discomfiture 
in the past. Verdi's action in living openly with Giuseppina now gave 
them new grounds for umbrage, and genuinely shocked and distressed 
many pious and narrow-minded people. Even among the well-wishers 
there were those who considered Verdi insufficiently recognizant 
towards Busseto and the Bussetani who had 'made' him, as they 
liked to think. Giuseppina's identity could not long be concealed. A 

Then he contrasts their subsequent careers: 

'Pazzo, che almanaccd per farsi nome 
Con un libraccio polveroso e vieto, 
Lasciando per il suon dell'alfabeto 

Crome e biscrome! 
'Or tu Mida doventi in una notte; 
E via portato da veloce ruota, 
Sorridi a lui che lascia nella mota 
Le scarpe rotte.' 

A cook fills the stomach and a tenor fills the ears; why bother with the intellect? The 
irony reaches a tremendous pitch in the lines: 

'Torni Dante, tre paoli; a te, la paga 
Di sei ministri.' 
The vocal cords are all that matter; a plague take the useless brain! 
'S'usa educar, lo so; ma e pur corbello, 
Bimbi, chi spende per tenervi a scuola! 
Gola e orecchi ci vuole, orecchi e gola : 
Peste al cervello ! ' 
1 'Dalle carte di un celebre tenore' {Musica d'Oggi, Jan. 1935). 



198 THE MAN VERDI 

woman of the theatre, about whom rumour had been rife, come to 
live among them — it was too much. Giuseppina was made aware of 
their hostility when she went out. In the church she was left alone on 
her bench, shunned as though she had the plague. Verdi could treat 
the Bussetani with contempt, but Giuseppina, in the next few years, 
suffered greatly. 

It seems likely that Giuseppina went to visit her mother, who was 
now living at Pavia, 1 while Verdi went to Naples for the production 
of Luisa Miller. He travelled in the company of Antonio Barezzi, 
who made notes of all the wonders they saw. Leaving Busseto on 
3rd October, they were held up for a fortnight in Rome, on the way, 
owing to anti-cholera quarantine regulations. A fine and little known 
letter 2 from Verdi to Marie Escudier, from Naples on 3rd November, 
describes Rome under French occupation: 

The affairs of our country are desolating ! Italy is no longer anything but 
a vast and beautiful prison ! If only you could see this sky, so pure, this 
climate, so mild, this sea, these mountains, this city, so beautiful!! To the 
eyes — a paradise : to the heart — an inferno ! ! The rule of your countrymen 
in Rome is no better than that of the rest of Italy. The French do their best 
to win the favour of the Romans, but so far the latter are most dignified 
and firm. One sees Frenchmen everywhere — parades, reviews, military 
bands that torment the ears in every corner of the city, all the time, but 
one never sees a Roman taking part. Whatever your newspapers may say, 
the demeanour of the Romans is most praiseworthy, but . . . the French 
are in the right . . . they are the strongest ! ! ! 

Theatrical affairs are desolating: the management is about to go bank- 
rupt ! For my part I 'm not at all unhappy about that, for I desire nothing 
more than to retire to some corner of the earth, to blaspheme and to curse! 

The delay in Rome meant that Barezzi had to return from Naples 
before Luisa Miller was staged, but he certainly made good use of his 
time, and enjoyed himself, as he had at Florence in 1847 and Paris 
in 1848: 

On the 29th, with Tesorone, saw the Royal Palace, Capo di Monte, the 
Park, the Hermitage, San Gennaro, the Gesu Nuovo, Santa Chiara, the 
Campo di Marte, two large obelisks, San Severo, with a surprising marble 
Christ, veiled and taken down from the Cross, and in the evening with 
Verdi at Chiaia to watch the sunset. 

On the 30th, with Arati, toured the port in a boat and visited one of the 
largest steamers, the Ercolano, and in the evening with Verdi and Signora 
Gazzaniga at the Teatro Fiorentini. . . . 

On the 3rd went with Verdi to Herculaneum and saw the excavations 

1 Accounts at the end of the second volume of Verdi's autograph Copialettere record 
a payment by Ricordi of 3,000 lire to 'Rosa Strepponi of Pavia'. A letter to Ricordi of 
19th April 1849 refers to this payment. 

2 Published in the Roman newspaper La Tribuna for 27th January 1907. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 199 

of the grandiose theatre, and the palace of Portici, provisionally inhabited 
by the Pope. . . - 1 

On the 6th with Verdi and Arati to Camaldoli on donkeys. 
On the 7th with Verdi by railway to Pompeii. 
On the 8th by railway to Caserta, alone. . . . 

On the 10th again at Pozzuoli with Verdi and saw the Grotto of the 
Cumaean Sibyl, with Nero's stoves, the Temple of Serapis, the amphi- 
theatre of Pozzuoli, and the remains of Caligula's famous bridge. 

On the 11th with Verdi by steamer to Procida, Ischia, Casamicciola, 
Cumae and the Grotto of Fusaro. 

On the 12th various other parts of Naples seen, and in the evening the 
sunset again. 2 

Barezzi left Naples on 14th November and was back at Busseto five 
days later. Luisa Miller was produced on 8th December; Verdi left 
Naples on the 13th. On 28th December he wrote from Busseto to 
Cesare De Sanctis, a new friend he had made at Naples, asking for 
the newspapers to be sent on, with accounts of the new opera 'which 
are awaited with the greatest anxiety by my father-in-law'. 

All of which shows that as yet no shadow had fallen over the 
relationship of Verdi and Antonio Barezzi. 

We have little information about Verdi's life at Busseto during the 
next two years. In February 1850 he was discussing with Cammarano 
the possibility of an opera on King Lear; in April he proposed 
Dumas's Kean as a subject to the management of the Teatro La 
Fenice at Venice; by August he was deeply engaged in study of Le 
Roi s' amuse; in the succeeding months he wrote part of the music of 
Rigoletto and the whole of the unfortunate Stiffelio, produced at 
Trieste on 16th November. After a struggle with the censorship 
Rigoletto was finished and produced with triumphant success at 
Venice on 11th March 1851. 

Hostility at Busseto was met by a more and more complete with- 
drawal from society. In 1851, in the spring, 3 Verdi and Giuseppina 
left the Palazzo Dordoni and went to live in the farmhouse at Sant' 
Agata, two miles away, Verdi having some time earlier moved his 
parents to a house at Vidalenzo. Relations with Carlo Verdi, too, 

1 Pio Nono had moved from Gaeta to Portici on 4th September of this year. 

2 Barezzi's notes are published by Garibaldi in an appendix to his edition of Muzio's 
letters. The details of Verdi's return from Naples given by Abbiati (II, pp. 45-6) are 
actually those of Barezzi's return. 

3 On 28th April Verdi told Piave: 'I hope to go into the country in seven or eight days' 
time.' This letter is published by Abbiati (II, p. 130) who, however, regards this as a 
temporary move, misled, probably, by earlier writers and by the fact that Verdi con- 
tinued to head his letters 'Busseto' for some time after the removal to Sant' Agata. The 
earliest letters actually headed 'Sant' Agata' seem to be those to Lanari of 26th April 
1852 (Abbiati, II, p. 164) and to Piave of 17th August 1852 (Morazzoni, Letter e inedite, 
p. 34). But the content of letters of 1851 shows they were written there, even though 
headed 'Busseto'. 



200 THE MAN VERDI 

had almost reached breaking point; the composition of Rigoletto had 
been contemporaneous with negotiations through the notary 
Balestra for the payment of Carlo's debts and the firm rejection of 
his claim to the products of the hen-house. 

At Sant' Agata Verdi and Giuseppina lived in solitude, ignoring 
the outside world, and Busseto in particular, occupied with country 
pursuits, planning the garden, planting trees and shrubs. Verdi 
supervised the work of the three peasant sub-tenants of the Sant' 
Agata farms, keeping scrupulous accounts of his wine, corn, hay, 
manure, flour and salt, and the profits accruing from traffic in cattle. 
A surviving document x shows that, eighteen months after the removal 
to Sant' Agata, he possessed four oxen, seventeen cows, ten bullocks, 
eleven calves and six rams, which brought in a profit of 1,714 lire 
over a year. 

A letter of Giuseppina's, on the occasion of another visit to 
Florence, tells us more about her affairs, without by any means 
entirely clarifying them : 

Florence, 18th May 1851. 
Dearest, 

I delayed writing to you in vain, because so far I have not succeeded in 
my intent, and so cannot tell you the day of my arrival at Parma. In any 
case you can count on having me home by the end of the month. 

If Livia's people, and she above all, had consulted Gigino (he of whom 
I have often spoken to you, and mentioned also in my last letter), things 
would have gone differently and I should not have needed to hurry to 
Florence. But in business affairs there is nothing worse than people of low 
intelligence, above all when malign influence directs them or intimidates 
them. From now on I am confident that things will go better. It was a 
great calamity for me to have met Bartolini, or, to put it better, to have 
set foot in poor Bartolini's studio. All these troubles arose from that — 
troubles not only for me, but for others besides. Fortunately I have freed 
myself, but there is someone else who will not escape without serious loss. 
Livia has become frightfully thin. Poor women, what imbeciles we are ! ! ! 

Tomorrow I should have a reply from Dini, dealer in groceries, who 
undertook to speak to Smith, dealer in woollen cloth. The customs union 
that is about to function has very sensibly diminished the business of the 
big firms, and this, as you will understand, is a loss for me at this moment. 

I hear that Piave has written to me, flaunting his latinity, grace and wit. 
It 's an easy triumph, because in writing to him I had no thought of such 
pretensions, but scribbled hurriedly a modest, intimate letter, far removed 
from those texts in language with long words that he receives from various 
prime donne, who write by the pale light of the moon, or under a weeping 
willowll ! For the rest, I shan't be able to get my own back by flaunting a 
like knowledge and intelligence, but I shall display a like friendship, 
because, to tell the truth, Piave is an excellent fellow, of whom I am fond 
both for his kindness and because you love him. 
1 Grazzi, loc. cit. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 201 

If you are looking forward to my arrival I am all anxiety to return. I 
repeat that I count on being home by Ascension Day at the latest. 

I recommend you, I pray you, not to become too intimate with your 
heirs, and that not through unkind feelings, I swear to you, but because I 
could not endure further displeasures of the sort I have endured now for 
almost two years. Human nature has shown itself in such a disgusting 
aspect in the past vicissitudes, that it is better for us if every precaution is 
taken that the veil with which you covered it is never raised again. 

Farewell, my Mage. I won't attempt to express my affection in words, 
reserving the right to do so with kisses on my return. Farewell. Farewell. 

Peppina. 

P.S. Lanari is not here, as you know. It seems that this man has done all 
he possibly could to render himself ridiculous, and make himself generally 
hated. 

We see now that Giuseppina had invested the money she had saved 
during her last years as a singer and singing teacher in a business at 
Florence. To the end of her life she kept separate accounts from 
Verdi, buying her own clothes and contributing, as freely as her 
means allowed, to various charities from her own purse. She was 
naturally generous, not given to counting costs and keeping bills, 
but she made herself what Verdi wished her to be, and became a 
model housekeeper and wife. Livia Zanobini seems also to have been 
involved in business. The connection between Giuseppina's and 
Livia's troubles and the encounter with Bartolini remains obscure. 
Bartolini had died in the previous year, less than five months after he 
had undertaken to supervise Camillino's artistic education. 

Piave, who had visited Busseto more than once in the course of the 
preparation of the Rigoletto libretto, was thus one of the first, in the 
outside world, to know the truth about Verdi's relations with 
Giuseppina. The passage in the above letter about the 'heirs' must, 
regrettably, be held to refer to Giovannino and Demetrio Barezzi, 
Verdi's brothers-in-law. 

One of the few of Giuseppina's own old friends with whom she 
kept up correspondence was Mauro Corticelli, a theatrical agent at 
Bologna. About fifty letters to him are in the Scala Museum, the 
earliest in date being this one, which tells what happened when she 
arrived back at Sant' Agata from Florence: 

Dear Corticelli, 

I got quite happily as far as one mile from Busseto. There I found a man 
who announced a misfortune. I hasten to add that Verdi was with me, 
having come to Parma to meet me. The misfortune was a burglary in the 
night, our country house being scaled and broken into. The thieves profited 
by the momentary absence of Verdi, and the consequently empty apart- 
ment, to enter by the window of my room and go straight to the drawer 
where the money is kept, in Verdi's room. But in forcing the secretaire, 



202 THE MAN VERDI 

where the money was, the wood broke with a tremendous crack and the 
servant woke up and began to call the woman and a peasant who by 
chance had stayed to sleep in the house. The latter got up in a fright and 
their terror increased when they saw through the keyhole the lamp lit in 
the apartment. The woman, braver than the men, tried to open the door, 
but fright and some internal obstacle prevented the key from turning. 
They then went down to the kitchen and, having armed themselves, one 
with a knife, one with an axe, one with another tool, they went up again, 
to try at all events to get in the apartment. Indeed, they succeeded, but 
the thieves (who perhaps were afraid of being recognized) had seized their 
chance and run away, so when the peasant-servantry entered they saw 
nothing but the window of my room wide open, a lamp lit in Verdi's room 
and the secretaire open and empty ! The pecuniary loss is not serious, but 
the fright of those poor people was very great. When we arrived they were 
still pale and distracted. A doctor was at once sent for to bleed them. Then 
there began the visits of the magistrate, the dragoons, the police, the 
experts, and a full report was drawn up. Now all possible inquiries are 
being made to discover the malefactors, but that won't be easy. . . . Verdi 
sends his best wishes and, as he has taken the advent of the thieves with a 
certain indifference, he continues to busy himself with agriculture, and at 
this moment is occupied in particular with the paving of the room on the 
ground floor, which he has had renewed. I haven't seen it yet, as it's still 
covered over. . . . When the tiles are uncovered and the rooms in, at any 
rate, decent condition, I hope you will come and join us in a good- stew 
alia polenta. 

Farewell, dear Mauro. Remember your sincere friend Peppina. Farewell. 

G. Strepponi. 

Busseto, 1st June 1851. 

Here is the earliest evidence we have that the move to Sant' Agata 
('our country house') had taken place. The old farmhouse, to which 
the first alterations were being made, was to be constantly improved 
and enlarged, as the years passed, until it was almost unrecognizable. 
As yet, it provided a very modest, rustic home. Verdi himself tells 
the same story in an undated letter to Piave: x 

One night last week, when I was away from home and Maria and 
Giacomo were alone in the house, sundry God-fearing persons, towards 
midnight, climbed up and broke a window and, having got into the upper 
apartment, broke open my writing-desk and stole a few gold napoleons 
and some rolls of Austrian lire which I kept there for daily use. Besides 
the loss by the theft there is the annoyance of visits by police-magistrates, 
police officers, gendarmes, etc., etc., and you can imagine what sort of 
humour I'm in. Am I never to have a moment's peace?!! I expect you at 
Busseto, but would like you to put off your visit for a while. For about a 
month now bricklayers, carpenters and the like have been working in my 
house, to my misfortune. They haven't finished yet and you wouldn't 

1 Carteggi verdiani, II, pp. 352-3. The postmark of arrival 'Venice, 4th June', can be 
read on a photograph of this letter in the archives of Sant' Agata. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 203 

find room anywhere. So wait a bit, and bring with you your good humour, 
for in this frightful solitude you will certainly need it. In another letter I '11 
describe the life one leads here, so that you'll be prepared for the worst. 
Farewell. 

'Busseto', here, is Sant' Agata ('this frightful solitude'). According 
to a letter from Muzio to Ricordi, 1 the thieves were Verdi's own 
servants. Abbiati, not knowing Giuseppina's letter to Corticelli, 
thinks the burglary was at Palazzo Dordoni. 

One 28th June Verdi's mother died, to his great sorrow, at Vidalenzo. 
'I can't tell you of his grief,' Muzio wrote to Ricordi, 'it's immense. 
Peppina suffers in seeing him weep and it's my sad office to see to the 
funeral arrangements, the priests, etc' Verdi, inviting Corticelli to 
pay them a visit, said: 'Certainly the place is not beautiful, and our 
humour is not cheerful.' Negotiations were opened for a new opera, 
to be produced in Madrid during the next Carnival or Lent season ; 
Verdi's terms included the provision of accommodation and travel- 
ling expenses 'for two people' — Giuseppina would have accom- 
panied him. But nothing came of this proposal. In December Verdi 
and Giuseppina left for Paris. 

During this time there had been very little contact between Verdi 
at Sant' Agata and his friends and enemies at Busseto. There was one 
person who suffered greatly as a result of this. We have seen that 
Antonio Barezzi had met Giuseppina in Paris in January 1848, and 
had liked and admired her. We have seen that her arrival at Busseto 
had not at first interrupted the deeply affectionate relationship 
between him and Verdi. But then incident had followed incident 
until Verdi had finally turned his back on Busseto and the Bussetani 
and retired into solitude. There was no breach with Barezzi, but 
inevitably a change was felt — things were not as they were. Barezzi 
was hurt by this withdrawal. And now Verdi and Giuseppina had 
gone off to Paris without any arrangement being made, as on previous 
occasions, for the Barezzi family to look after Verdi's property during 
his absence. After an interval, Barezzi wrote, apparently complaining 
that he was being neglected. Verdi's reply is celebrated: 

Paris, 21st January 1852. 
Dearest Father-in-law, 

After waiting so long I did not expect to receive from you so cold a letter, 
containing, unless I misread them, some very pointed remarks. If this 
letter were not signed ' Antonio Barezzi ', that is to say, by my benefactor, 
I should have replied either very sharply or not at all. But since it bears a 
name that it will always be my duty to respect, I shall try, as far as possible, 
to persuade you that I don't deserve any sort of reproach. To do this I 
shall have to return to things of the past, to speak of others and of our 

1 Abbiati, II, p. 137. 



204 THE MAN VERDI 

home town, and the letter will become a bit long-winded and tiresome, but 
I shall try to be as brief as I can. 

I don't believe that of your own accord you would have written me a 
letter which you know was bound to distress me. But you live in a town 
where people have the bad habit of prying into other people's affairs and 
of disapproving of everything that does not conform to their own ideas. 
It is my custom never to interfere, unless I am asked, in other people's 
business and I expect others not to interfere in mine. All this gossip, 
grumbling and disapprobation arises from that. I have the right to expect 
in my own country the liberty of action that is respected even in less 
civilized places. Judge for yourself, severely if you will, but coolly and 
dispassionately: What harm is there if I live in isolation? If I choose not 
to pay calls on titled people? If I take no part in the festivities and rejoic- 
ings of others? If I administer my farmlands because I like to do so and 
because it amuses me? I ask again: What harm is there in this? In any 
case, no one is any the worse for it. 

That premised, I come to the sentence in your letter : ' I know very well 
that I am not the man for serious charges, because my time is over, but 
for little things I should be capable still?' If by that you mean to say that 
once I gave you heavy tasks to perform and now make use of you for little 
things, alluding to the letter I enclosed in yours, I can find no excuse for 
this, and, although I should do as much for you in similar cases, I can only 
say that the lesson will serve me for the future. If, however, your sentence 
is to be interpreted as a reproach because I have not entrusted you with 
my affairs during my absence, I permit myself to ask : How could I possibly 
be so inconsiderate as to lay such a heavy burden on you, who never set 
foot in your own fields, because the demands of your business are them- 
selves too heavy? Ought I to have entrusted them to Giovannino? But 
isn't it true that last year, while I was at Venice, I gave him ample powers, 
in writing, and he didn't once set foot in Sant' Agata? I'm not blaming him 
for that. He was perfectly right. He had his own things, important enough, 
to attend to, and so he couldn't look after mine. 

There, I've laid bare to you my opinions, my actions, my wishes, my 
public life, I would almost say, and since we are by way of making revela- 
tions, I have no objection to raising the curtain that veils the mysteries 
contained within four walls, and telling you about my private life. I have 
nothing to hide. In my house there lives a lady, free, independent, a lover 
like myself of solitude, possessing a fortune that shelters her from all need. 
Neither I nor she owes to anyone at all an account of our actions. On the 
other hand, who knows what relationship exists between us? What affairs? 
What ties? What claims I have on her, and she on me? Who knows whether 
she is or is not my wife? And if she is, who knows what the particular 
reasons are for not making the fact public? Who knows whether that is a 
good thing or a bad one? Why should it not be a good thing? And even if 
it is a bad thing, who has the right to ostracize us? I will say this, however: 
in my house she is entitled to as much respect as myself — more even; and 
no one is allowed to forget that on any account. And finally she has every 
right, both on account of her conduct and her character, to the considera- 
tion she never fails to show to others. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 205 

With this long rigmarole I mean to say no more than that I demand 
liberty of action for myself, because all men have a right to it, and because 
I am by nature averse to acting according to other people's ideas, and that 
you, who at heart are so good, so just and so generous, should not let 
yourself be influenced, and not absorb the ideas of a town which — it must 
be said ! — in time past did not consider me worthy to be its organist, and 
now complains, wrongly and perversely, about my actions and affairs. 
That cannot go on; if it does, I shall choose my own course of action. The 
world is wide, and the loss of twenty or thirty thousand francs will not 
prevent my finding a home elsewhere. Nothing in this letter should offend 
you, but if by chance there is anything that displeases you, overlook it, for 
on my honour I swear I have no intention of causing you displeasure of 
any sort. I have always thought of you, and still think of you, as my 
benefactor, and feel honoured and proud of that. Farewell. Farewell. 

The letter from Barezzi that provoked this reply has not survived. 
Probably, however, those writers who have supposed that Barezzi 
had written a letter 'rebuking him for causing a scandal', or 'protest- 
ing' against Verdi's relations with Giuseppina, have gone too far. It 
is very doubtful whether Barezzi would have dared to open a dis- 
cussion on such matters as these. But he was clearly unhappy, and 
hurt, at Verdi's seeming neglect, with the transference to Sant' Agata 
and general avoidance of Busseto. The only part of Barezzi's letter 
quoted: 'I know very well that I am not the man for serious charges, 
because my time is over, but for little things I should be capable still? ' 
might be interpreted as a reminder of past benefits — but a kindly 
reminder, and one, surely, revealing a sincere wish to continue to be 
of use. How could Verdi think for a moment that he was being 
rebuked for enclosing a letter to someone else in one to Barezzi, for 
the latter to deliver? This touchiness, this hypersensitivity, in a man 
who often appeared to have the hide of a rhinoceros, is seen again in 
the reference, after so many years, to Ferrari's appointment as organist. 

It has often been remarked that although he talks about 'raising 
the curtain' Verdi in this letter does not actually tell Barezzi anything 
he did not know before. He reveals nothing at all. But perhaps he has 
been wrongly blamed for this. He could not tell the whole story 
without discussing Giuseppina's past life. It was she, and not Verdi, 
who for the present rejected the idea of marriage. The evidence of the 
letters published by Luzio is clear : Giuseppina felt herself unworthy 
of Verdi. Tied as she was still to Camillino and, unless it had died 
before this, to the second child, about which we know nothing, she 
hesitated to accept yet the great name that Verdi had almost certainly 
offered her. Remarks about Verdi 'placing Giuseppina in a position 
that must have been cruelly unhappy to a devout Catholic' are out of 
place, especially since it is more than doubtful whether she was, at 
this time, a particularly devout Catholic. 



206 THE MAN VERDI 

Barezzi's reply has not come down to us; it was surely conciliatory. 
We know that he soon took Giuseppina to his heart, and she loved 
him, as her later letters show. She called him her 'Nonnon' and 
signed herself 'your most affectionate quasi-daughter'. Visits from 
'Signor Antonio' are reported in her letters from Sant' Agata during 
Verdi's occasional absences from home. 

Giuseppina and Verdi returned from Paris to Sant' Agata in 
March. The reconciliation with Barezzi, and the beginning of a closer 
relationship between him and Giuseppina, probably followed at once. 
Proof that all was well by the summer is found in the reminiscences 
of Leon Escudier, 1 who came to Italy to convey the news that Verdi 
had been created Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. Escudier found 
Barezzi dining at Sant' Agata: 

For Father Antonio, Verdi is a demi-god. ... He never speaks of him or 
of his works without tears coming into his eyes. He lives at Busseto. . . . 
He shows you, with a pride that makes the composer smile and shrug his 
shoulders, the room in which Verdi wrote / due Foscari. Then, if you have 
won his confidence, if you show sufficiently great admiration for Verdi, 
he allows you to see a pile of manuscripts, which he guards as the apple 
of his eye. These are the earliest compositions. . . . Many a time Verdi 
would have liked to put these old papers on the fire; a heart-rending 
glance from Father Antonio alone prevented this auto-da-fe. . . . We sat 
down at table. Needless to say, it was Father Antonio who led the con- 
versation and Verdi who was the subject of it — to the great despair of the 
Maestro, who, tired of the struggle, gave up trying to make him be quiet. 

When, at the dessert stage, the cross of the Legion of Honour was 
produced, Verdi frowned, trying to hide his emotion, and then shook 
Escudier warmly by the hand. 'Father Antonio was dumbfounded. 
He tried to speak, but it was impossible for him to articulate a single 
word; he waved his hands, stood up, threw his arms round Verdi's 
neck, embraced him and wept like a child.' Afterwards he borrowed 
the decoration, promising to bring it back the next day, and hurried 
off to show it round Busseto. 

In the following winter // Trovatore was composed, for production 
in Rome, and, almost contemporaneously, work was begun on La 
Traviata, for the Teatro La Fenice, at Venice. Piave was called to 
Sant' Agata, to work on another, unidentified libretto. This was 
actually finished, and Piave on the point of returning to Venice, when 
Verdi suddenly became intensely interested in La Dame aux Camelias, 
and made his friend stay on and draft a scenario based on this. 'You 
know Sant' Agata, topographically,' Piave wrote to Guglielmo 
Brenna, ' and you can imagine whether I am here for my amusement. 
. . . When it rains, I assure you, it's a case of looking at oneself in 

1 Mes Souvenirs, second edition (Paris, 1863). 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 207 

the mirror to see if one is still in human form or whether one hasn't 
been transmuted into that of a toad or frog.' 1 But the result of poor 
Piave's tribulations was La Traviata. Luzio has suggested a possible 
reflection, or sublimation, in this opera, of the intimate drama of 
Verdi's personal relationship with Giuseppina Strepponi and Antonio 
Barezzi. Violetta's redemption through love, and the elder Germont's 
final recognition of her worth had had, indeed, their parallels in real 
life, not long before the opera was written. Giuseppina escaped 
Violetta's tragic end, it is true, but her health was anything but good 
and some of her letters exhale a melancholy, sick-room atmosphere 
not unlike that of the last act of La Traviata. 

We have a wonderfully revealing group of letters from Giuseppina 
to Verdi, written while he was in Rome for the production of // 
Trovatore. As yet he would not allow her to accompany him when he 
went to put on new operas in Italy. So Giuseppina had gone with him 
only as far as Leghorn, whence she could easily visit Florence while 
awaiting Verdi's return. 

Leghorn, 2nd January 1853. 
I expect to hear from you tomorrow; God grant it may be so, for I 
have so much need of it ! I hope you spent New Year's Day a little better 
than I did. ... I'm afraid I shall have lost the use of my tongue by the 
time of your return, having observed an almost Trappist silence since last 
Tuesday! I go out very little, because wandering through the streets bores 
me, and, for the rest, Leghorn is too small a place for one to be able to 
go out freely without exciting excessive attention. ... I can't tell you with 
what impatience I await your return ! I have taken to reading, and I read 
and read and read, until my eyes are inflamed, but I'm afraid that sadness 
and boredom will attack me, during these days when you have condemned 
me to the cellular system. You will say: 'Spend some money and amuse 
yourself.' First of all, I don't like you to say: 'Amuse yourself,' and then, 
I don't know how to set about it ! If I could see you for a quarter of an 
hour in every twenty-four, my spirit would be glad, I should work, I 
should read, and time would pass too quickly, even. As things are . . . 
but let's not talk on that subject any more, because it makes me feel like 
crying. 

3rd January. 
My Dear Pasticcio, 

I have just received your letter — I can't tell you with what joy! ... I am 
very glad you find yourself lost without me, and I wish you so much 
boredom that you'll have to renounce the barbarous idea of leaving me 
in isolation, like a saint of the Thebaid! My dear Mage, you have the heart 
of an angel, but your head, for languages and for certain ideas, is so thick 
that if Gall were still alive he would be able to add some curious obser- 
vations to his treatise on craniology. I ask you, by way of conversation : 

1 Giovanni Cenzato, Itinerari verdiani (Parma, n.d.), p. 98. 



208 THE MAN VERDI 

Is it true or not that all those who intrigue, or interest themselves in 
other people's business, believe as an article of faith that I am with you 
in Rome? You will reply: 'Certainly it is true; let them believe it!' I 
retort (always by way of conversation) : What would it matter to you then, 
if next to your bedroom there were that of your poor Pasticciol An't I 
here in this friar's cell, with only a little mouse for company? (I forgot to 
tell you that I have got over my aversion for mice, since I made the 
acquaintance of this nocturnal companion, who comes to eat the crumbs 
I let fall when I dine.) Now, being able to stay all alone in my room, 
without any sort of distraction, instead of staying there unhappily I should 
stay there most gladly if I knew that at night, when you return from the 
theatre, or an evening gathering, before lying down you would come, as at 
home, to say: 'Goodnight, Pasticcio,'' and in the morning, before opening 
your room to visitors: 'Good morning, Pasticcio.'' I think no orator ever 
found arguments more persuasive than mine. From the moment they 
believe that I am with you and that you say: 'Let them believe it!' and I 
don't show myself either to confirm or deny that I'm there or not there, it 
seems to me you could be more kind and renounce the role of Dionysius, 
tyrant of Syracuse, because you are too generous to sign repeated sentences 
of exile ! 

The day after tomorrow I shall go to Florence, and if possible I shall 
go also to Pisa, to hear la Piccolomini. Were there no letters for me in 
Rome? I say nothing about the silence of my relatives! When I inherit 
500,000 francs they will come back and write me most amiable letters! 
That's the way of the world! . . . Farewell. Write me a nice letter and make 
haste and give our Trovatore. A kiss on your heart. 

Peppina. 

Leghorn, 3rd January 1853. 
Dearest, 

I have received your second letter, and I thank you for having thought 
of me on the first day of the New Year, the eleventh of our acquaintance ! 
If I did not write to you, it was because I know your indifference about 
such things. But you can imagine my good wishes on the first day, and all 
the other days, of this and all the other years of your life to come! (God 
grant you may close my eyes.) 

So your arm hurts? I hope it's better now, but in any case expose 
yourself as little as possible to the night air, and use camphorated oil. I 
am not very well, either, and my appetite is failing. My dear Verdi, I 
confess my weakness, but this separation has been, for me, more painful 
than all the others. Without you I am a body without a soul. I am different 
(and I think you are, too) from those people who have need of frequent 
separations to revive their affection. I would stay with you for years and 
years, without boredom or satiety. On the contrary, now, after we've 
been together for a long time, without leaving each other for a moment, I 
feel our separation more keenly, although you give me reason to hope it 
will be brief. 

I'm going to Florence tomorrow, and pray heaven I may have no 
vexations. I shall stay there for a few days and, if I have no troubles, I 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 209 

shall be less sad than here at Leghorn. I have been thinking over the trip 
to Pisa. ... It seems very unfitting for me to stay a night there, to go alone 
to the theatre. You will understand that when I too was a professional 
singer it was another matter : my name served as a sort of companion, or 
I could ask for letters of recommendation, etc., etc. Now, thank God, I 
have disappeared from society, and after so many years spent living with 
you in solitude, almost in the wilderness, I feel quite helpless when I have 
to go alone to this or that part of the inhabited and civilized world. Like 
me, you can say that you long for your little room at Sant' Agata ! If it 
weren't for the contract for the opera we could enjoy, at Sant' Agata or 
in some other desert place, our tranquil existence, and the pleasures that 
are so simple and for us so delightful. Sometimes I fear that the love of 
money will re-awaken in you and condemn you to many further years of 
drudgery. My dear Mage, you would be very wrong. Don't you see? A 
great part of our lives has gone by, and you would be quite mad if, instead 
of enjoying the rewards of your glorious and honoured labours in peace, 
you were to sweat to accumulate money and make glad those who in the 
sad word 'Death' see only their infamous desires realized in the iniquitous 
word 'Inheritance'. We shall have no children (since God, perhaps, wishes 
to punish me for my sins, in depriving me of any legitimate joy before I 
die). Well then, not having children by me, I hope you won't cause me 
sorrow by having any by another woman ; without children you have a 
fortune more than sufficient to provide for your needs, and a little bit of 
luxury besides. We adore the country, and in the country one lives cheaply 
— and enjoys oneself so much. When I think that there are, at Sant' Agata, 
those dear culatelli, Solfarin and Menaffiss, 1 who pull your modest carriage 
with such gusto and cost so little . . . when I think that I have my Poli- 
Poli, Pretin, Matt, Prevost, etc., etc., 2 which look at me with eyes full of 
affection and greediness, which cost so little and amuse me so much . . . 
when I think of our flowers and few feet of garden, which gives us as much 
pleasure as if it were the Eden of the Earthly Paradise — I ask whether 
city life has ever given us such pleasures and whether, in consequence, 
two or three months a year of this cursed city are not more than enough 
to put us in a fever of desire to return to the country? 

Don't you agree? Then I'll put a stop to my chatter, which I perceive 
has gone on rather too long. But you will be indulgent. If only you knew 
what a sad life I lead these days ! . . . And you haven't written anything 
yet? You see! You haven't got your poor Nuisance 3 in a corner of the 
room, curled up in an armchair, to say: 'That's beautiful' — 'That's nof 
— 'Stop' — 'Repeat that' — 'That's original.' Now, without this poor 
Nuisance, God is punishing you, making you wait and rack your brains, 
before opening all the little pigeon-holes and allowing your magnificent 
musical ideas to emerge. 

1 Two horses, clearly. 'Culatelli' needs a word of explanation, even to Italians. The 
culatello is a local delicacy, a ham made from the buttock of a pig. Seen from behind, 
from the carriage, Solfarin and Menaffiss presented to the view two tails and four 
culatelli. 

2 All cage birds, probably. 

3 'Livello', as she calls herself, in the dialect of Lodi means 'nuisance', according to 
Gatti. 



210 THE MAN VERDI 

Florence, 12th January 1853. 
Dearest, 

Here at Florence I have received your few lines, which — be it said 
without intention of wronging your (calligraphic) talents — I had the 
greatest difficulty in the world to read. I understand, however, that you 
wrote to me in a moment of ill humour, and so I don't complain of the 
not very nice remark you make. What? Not write to you through care- 
lessness? Because of etiquette? Listen, my dear Mage. I have nothing in 
the world to console me — you alone excepted. I love you (perhaps it's a 
fault) beyond everything and everybody! However great, numerous and 
constant my sorrows, your love is for me such a benison that it suffices to 
give me courage to support all my afflictions. If, therefore, an action, a 
word, a failing in me sometimes displeases you, forgive it, thinking of all 
the sadness and misfortune of my existence ! 

I have stayed at Florence longer than I expected; but the days are so 
short and walking tires me so much that it has taken me several days to 
pay the necessary calls. You will say: 'You should have taken a carriage.' 
I did consider it, but decided it was better not to take one, and that not 
only from the point of view of economy — though economy while travelling 
is very difficult. . . . Signor Ronzi, believing he was doing me (doing you, 
that is) a favour, brought me the key of a box at the theatre and I had, to 
my great annoyance, to go to Le Prophete, as la Frezzolini will perhaps 
not sing during the Carnival season, and spend a further 12 paoliU Don't 
ask me anything about Le Prophete, or about the singers. I reserve all my 
critico-philosophic chatter until your return. I have also been to another 
place, which you are a thousand miles from guessing, but, I repeat, you 
will hear the story (however melancholy and boring) of these days of exile 
when you arrive at Leghorn. 

Jouhaud is being extremely kind, and speaks of you with incredible 
enthusiasm! 

I shall be at Leghorn on Friday evening and shall rest from all the 
commotion of these days. I hope that 77 Trovatore will be staged not later 
than the 15th, in which case you will be at Leghorn on the 19th, if there 
is a steamer. I hope I shall find letters from you on Friday, having left 
instructions that no more letters are to be forwarded to Florence after 
Sunday the 9th. 

Lose no time, but hurry to me as soon as your business in Rome is over. 
Love me, as I love you. 

Your 

Peppina. 

Leghorn, 17th January 1853. 
Dearest, 

I am very sorry about what you tell me concerning the opera for Venice. 
I hope, however, that the situation is not quite so black as you paint it, and 
that on your arrival at Leghorn you will have several finished pieces in your 
trunk. By that I don't mean to refuse to do what you wish: for a long time 
now I have had no will of my own. Only (and I tell you this frankly) I 
should be displeased if you thought up some pretext for taking me back 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 211 

to Sant' Agata and leaving again without me. If this is your intention it 
would suffice to say: 'Peppina, this is a sacrifice I ask of your affection.' 
I have made so many sacrifices for one who has repaid, and repays, me 
with immense ingratitude, that I am most happy to consent to do what 
pleases you, for you, who alone in the world have never caused me sorrow ! 
So be it as you wish ; let 's go back to Sant' Agata, and your will be done, 
as long as I have my eyes open and the strength to tell you that I love you 
with all my being! . . . 

I flattered myself you would have finished with 77 Trovatore much 
earlier, but I see you throw doubt on your arrival even by the 24th. If, 
however, you do arrive on the 24th, we can be at Genoa on the 25th, 
leave again on the 26th (if you want to hear la Biscottini) and be sleeping 
in our own bed on the evening of the 27th. So hurry up and leave Rome. 

If I were an egoist, what you tell me about Naples would induce me to 
advise you to accept the contract, but your health and peace of mind are 
worth more than all the delights of Naples, Capri and Sorrento ! So, in 
your position, I wouldn't tie myself in any way for the present. I should 
look for a libretto I liked and set it to music without any engagement and 
in my own timel . . . 

I shan't speak of myself! ... I'm unbelievably sad, and woe betide me 
if I go on like this! At Florence I've had things to do and annoyances, not 
amusements ; but the smoke of the steamer on the 24th will announce my 
Mage, and with him will return my moments of good humour and gaiety. 
Oh, if Sant' Agata were in France, in England, in America, who, except 
yourself, would ever see me again on this earth? Believe me, the aversion 
I show for society in general is much less than that I feel for myself. 

If we could find in the south of France, in England, in Greece, in Turkey 
or somewhere, a patch of ground to buy, to turn upside down at our fancy, 
what a delight it would be for me! And for you? 

I love Sant' Agata, because it's my nature to become fond of places 
where I've lived for a long time; nevertheless there are so many things, so 
many passions (good and bad) that, for another eight or ten years at least, 
prevent us from enjoying there that complete peace which, it seems to me, 
would make us young again and doubly alive. 

My dear Pasticcio, I have spent a lot of money — and without having 
bought myself anything beautiful, or of any consequence. It's true that the 
journey to Florence (all the more as I almost never dined alone) upset my 
calculations ; but, all things considered, as you will see from the bills, I 
have been very moderate. But the money just flies. It never enters my mind 
to sample the Bordeaux, or champagne, as when I am with you: I don't 
even know how a black coffee tastes at Leghorn! If you delay coming until 
the 24th there won't be the treasures of Croesus left over, certainly; I'm 
sorry about that. 

I shan't write to you any more, then, and will expect you on the 24th. 
For the love of God, do your utmost not to fail to come. A kiss on your 
heart. Farewell. Farewell. 

Peppina. 



212 THE MAN VERDI 

Verdi had intended working on La Traviata during the rehearsals 
of // Trovatore in Rome; he had ordered a piano to be put in his 
rooms there for this purpose. According to Benjamin Lumley, 1 the 
first act of La Traviata was actually written at Genoa in four days, 
while he was detained there by bad weather. This must have been 
while he was still in Giuseppina's company, on the way to Rome by 
sea, via Genoa and Civitavecchia. We have seen that little progress 
was made with the new opera in Rome. The passage in which 
Giuseppina recalls Verdi in the act of composition at Sant' Agata, 
with herself curled up in an armchair near by, interpolating comments 
and criticism, is of extraordinary interest. She must have sung many 
of these world-famous melodies for the first time from the manuscript 
sketches. He took her advice in many things. Thus, just five days after 
Giuseppina wrote the above letter, we find Verdi telling Corticelli 2 
that he did not wish to tie himself down by a contract to producing a 
new opera by a certain date; first he would compose the opera, at his 
own convenience, and then look round for a suitable theatre, with 
suitable singers. This was exactly what Giuseppina had suggested. 

But if she was hoping to be allowed to accompany him to Venice 
for the production of La Traviata she was to be disappointed. Verdi 
willed otherwise, and Giuseppina's declining health, in any case, made 
it advisable for her to stay at home. 

Dr Frignani, of Busseto, did not enjoy her confidence. She thought 
him both ignorant and malicious, recalled the mistakes he had made 
in treating the wife of Signor Antonio, Verdi's agent, and others, and 
only sent for him herself when she could not avoid it. La Traviata was 
finished at Sant' Agata in an atmosphere of gloom and foreboding 
like that of its own last act. Verdi himself was unwell, and already 
convinced that his opera would fail, as it did. Piave, from Sant' 
Agata, was forced to write, at Verdi's dictation, a letter 3 conveying 
to the management the composer's belief that the entire company of 
singers engaged was unworthy of the Teatro La Fenice, and that the 
result would be a complete fiasco. He added a postscript: 

All that I wrote in Verdi's name, but now I must add on my own account 
that he is in a truly infernal temper, partly perhaps because of his indisposi- 
tion, but more owing to his lack of confidence in the singers. I have myself 
read letters sent him from Rome which analyse and pulverize not only la 
Salvini, but VaresVs weakness and the marmoreal, monotonous singing of 
Graziani (those are the epithets I read !). I, also, came in for my own share 
of reproof, for not having told him about this chronic condition (as he says) 
of the company. 

1 Reminiscences of the Opera (London, 1864), pp. 395-6, footnote. Lumley says Verdi 
told him this. 

2 G. Morazzoni, Verdi: Lettere inedite (Milan, 1929), p. 36. 

3 Verdi e la Fenice (Venice, 1951), pp. 48-9. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 213 

A little later an anonymous letter from Venice announced that unless 
the soprano and the bass were changed La Traviata would be a 
fiasco. 'I know, I know,' said Verdi. 

After he left for Venice Giuseppina wrote him a wonderfully 
beautiful letter: 

Sant' Agata, 23rd February 1853. 
Dear Mage, 

I write, as I promised, to tell you I am neither better nor worse than on 
Sunday: however, Frignani assures me that with today's powders I shall 
have sensible and speedy relief. ... He has forbidden me both meat and 
green vegetables, prescribing a diet of soup and eggs, to be eaten tepid ; 
as long as it 's tepid he also allows me black coffee — and you know that 's 
my only little weakness — at table. All that I ask and hope is to be perfectly 
well again by your return. You can't imagine all I suffered in the last few 
days, seeing you, my poor Mage, working like a nigger and, on top of that, 
having my indisposition before your eyes ! But I shall get well again and 
shall try, by my good humour, to make you forget past annoyances. You 
are so good to your Nuisance . . . and I am desolate at not being able to 
compensate at all for what you do for me! ... I dare not even speak of 
your generous and delicate [offer?] . . . but look, not because I'm ungrate- 
ful, you know that, you feel that, you understand ! More than once I have 
swallowed, cleared my throat, etc., to begin my discourse . . . but emotion 
strangles the words in my throat, I feel like crying, the blood rushes to my 
head, etc., and I have to renounce those sincere expressions which I would 
like to use and which you have the right to expect. On the other hand, 
knowing your fineness of feeling, I am sure you would be as embarrassed 
and as moved as I myself! Poor Mage! And to think that that lofty soul of 
yours came spontaneously to lodge in the body of a Bussetano ! One needs 
the faith of St Thomas to believe it. I am still of the opinion that an 
exchange took place in your childhood, and that you came into existence 
as the result of some sweet lapse of two unhappy and superior beings ! 
Write to me when you can; hurry on the rehearsals and return to your hut. 
Our youth is over; nevertheless we are still the whole world to each other 
and watch with high compassion all the human puppets rushing about, 
climbing up, slipping down, fighting, hiding, reappearing — all to try to 
put themselves at the head, or among the first few places, of the social 
masquerade. In this perpetual convulsion they reach the last extremity, 
surprised at not having enjoyed anything, at not having anything sincere 
and disinterested to console them in their last hours, and longing too late 
for that peace, which seems to me the best thing on earth, and which they 
have despised all their fives in order to embrace the chimeras of vanity. 
As long as God leaves us good health, our simple and modest pleasures 
and desires will cheer and comfort us even in old age; our affection and 
our characters, so well matched, will leave no room for those frequent 
and bitter altercations which diminish love and end by destroying every 
illusion. It's true, is it not, my Pasticcio, that I see life in a way that, 
unfortunately, people in general do not see it? If you too see it like that, 
the future can still be beautiful for you and for me. Farewell. I leave off 



214 THE MAN VERDI 

because I am tired, but I hope soon to be well. Greetings to Piave. Farewell. 
Farewell. 

Your Peppina. 

P.S. Yesterday morning, at about nine o'clock, Demetrio came to Sant' 
Agata, as cool as a cucumber, to see me, but I did not receive him, both 
because I was ill in bed and because I thought the hour very unfitting for 
paying calls on a lady. I sent my excuses, and I don't know whether he 
took offence. ... He said in the kitchen that he is getting married, that he 
has bought a new carriage, and that he had been at la Cavalli's house up 
till four in the morning. He really is a bad lot. 

Further reports on Giuseppina's health followed. 

26th February 1853. 
Dear Mage, 

Today I sent Bernardo to Borgo and he came back with a most welcome 
letter from you, which has consoled me. I am better, I don't know 
whether owing to what Frignani prescribed or owing to taking great care 
and to what I thought it well to do myself. After having taken the six doses 
ordered me, and not found the hoped-for improvement, I took, or rather 
I gulped down, two ounces of tamarind pulp at once, and then had 
Tognetta apply [compresses?] of rice water. After that I began to feel 
better and today for the first time since your departure I ate a little meat. 
Frignani came on Wednesday morning and said, after having examined 
me: 'The pulse is good, the tongue is fine, there is no wind in the body, 
etc. It 's nothing ! It 's nothing ! ' After this assurance I began to get frightened, 
all the more as I felt very poorly late on Wednesday and the following 
Thursday. I didn't, however, send for Frignani again, but did as I told 
you above. . . . God willed that in the night from Thursday to Friday I 
felt considerable relief and today, Saturday, I am better and have strummed 
through the overture to La Battaglia di Legnano. I hope to be perfectly well 
by your return. 

2nd March 1853. 
Dearest, 

If, as you were hoping, the opera is staged on Saturday the 5th, it will 
be no use my addressing other letters to Venice after this. However, I shall 
know what to do from the letter that I expect to receive tomorrow. I hope 
that in spite of your tremendous exertions you are well. ... I can't say as 
much about myself, because I 've had a relapse, but perhaps, God willing, I 
shall have recovered my strength a little by the time of your return. If it's 
the cold weather that is the cause of this long indisposition, it has treated 
me cruelly this time ! But you, who are so good to me, will arrange things 
so that next winter (if I'm alive) I shan't feel the rigours of the most anti- 
pathetic season of the year. If, then, we have to stay in Paris, I shall set up 
my winter quarters in a room with a stove at the first winds from the 
north, and I shall emerge when I see people dressed in their summer clothes 
again. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 215 

Signor Antonio came to see me on Sunday. He tells me he is not going 
to write to you, but begs me to give you a thousand greetings. 

As you can imagine, I have had to recall Frignani: he repeats that it's 
nothing, and I only hope he's right. We shall see. 

Forgive me, my dear Verdi, if I don't write much, but I am again on a 
strict diet, and you will understand that I am not very strong. I firmly 
believe that your return will give me back health and strength. Farewell. 
Look after yourself. Even if I improve to the extent of feeling well next 
week, I shall deprive myself of the pleasure of coming to embrace you at 
Cremona, from prudence, and for other reasons that I '11 tell you by word 
of mouth — not important ones, however. Farewell once again. 

Your poor Nuisance. 

I have had a fairly good night, but am very weak today; I should 
perhaps be feeling better if I hadn't received some letters that have exceed- 
ingly distressed me. ... I was hoping to hear from you today, but one sees, 
poor Pasticcio, you haven't had time. As long as it's not owing to illness. 
. . . Ricordi has written to me, and Mauro Corticelli, too, and Agostino 
Marchesi. I have replied to them all, in spite of not being well and my 
immense ill humour on account of the letters from Florence. 

Come quickly. I long for you, as for God. 

There are further passages in these letters revelatory of Guisep- 
pina's attitude towards Verdi's friends and relations. Muzio she saw 
quite clearly: 

I fear that the head of that young man will be an eternal obstacle to his 
fortune. He is absolutely honest, but in character exaggeratedly hot- 
headed and restless ; all too ready to proffer remarks, spit out his opinions 
and give unasked advice ; with so little tact in the affairs of life, which are 
sometimes most delicate, that few will put themselves out to help him, 
unless they know him well enough to appreciate what goodness, honesty 
and loyalty there are in his heart. I am sorry, for I am sincerely fond of 
him. 

She also liked Piave (known as the 'Gran Diavolo') very much, 
though with certain reservations : 

Thank the Big Devil for the few lines he wrote me and tell him not to 
show his friendship by leading you astray. I know that he has great talent 
and inclination for that occupation {he has proved it to you), but exhort 
him from me to show his erotic zeal with friends who resemble himself. 1 
Joking apart, give him my kind regards and tell him that if poor Peppina 
is here among the snow (newly fallen since your departure) it is because 
that was the wish of him who alone in all the world commands my 
obedience. 

1 During his visit to Venice for Rigoletto Verdi had undoubtedly been flirting with a 
certain 'Angel', a friend of Piave's. After his return she addressed letters to him poste 
restante at Cremona and even proposed to pay him a visit. See the letters to Piave 
published by Abbiati (II, PP- 128-30). 



216 THE MAN VERDI 

Verdi, when he returned, brought a present from Piave, acknowledged 
by Giuseppina in a charming note: * 

Dearest Big Devil, 

Forgive me if I haven't written to you before now, to thank you for all 
the affectionate expressions in your letter and for the delightful purse sent 
me by means of the Big Bear. (It's true it was empty, but I count on filling 
it with the shekels of Sig. Capitan Piave, playing at Sette e mezzo) 

I repeat, please forgive my long silence, because, as Verdi has already 
told you, I am a poor Nuisance, who for a long time now has enjoyed very 
little good health. I set my hopes on the fine weather, which can't be far 
away. 

Unappeased resentment against the Bussetani is still apparent. Even 
Signor Antonio got a slight scratch from Giuseppina: 

Signor Antonio has been to see me once. The other day the Duke of 
Busseto passed and Signor Antonio went to meet him with the band; then 
the duke spoke to him most graciously and Signor Antonio, it seems, was 
on the point of fainting at such an honour, at such a joy ! Amen. 

This little weakness of Barezzi's had been referred to by Verdi himself 
in the letter of 21st January 1852, when he wrote : ' What harm is there 
if I live in isolation? If I choose not to pay calls on titled people?' 
Barezzi himself, however, was before long to outrage conventional 
opinion at Busseto. On 29th August 1853 his wife Maria died, 
in spite or because of the attentions of Dr Frignani; within a year, 
on 18th May 1854, Barezzi, aged sixty-seven, married Maddalena 
Fagnoni, aged about thirty, his former domestic servant. 2 This cannot 
have been much to the liking of Giovannino and Demetrio, con- 
sidered by Giuseppina to be avidly awaiting their inheritance. 

Giuseppina's own children, after this, are lost in obscurity. Of the 
younger child absolutely nothing is known. A vague tradition at Sant' 
Agata holds that Camillino died in an institution at Florence at about 
fourteen or fifteen years of age. According to our calculations, he 
would have been just about fifteen when Giuseppina wrote of 
receiving distressing news from Florence, but she may, of course, 
have meant news about her business affairs. Was it Camillino of whom 
she wrote that he had repaid her for her many sacrifices with immense 
ingratitude? It is possible. 

After La Traviata Verdi did renounce the role of Dionysius, tyrant 
of Syracuse, and signed no more 'sentences of exile' for Giuseppina. 
As a result of this, and perhaps also of the death of Camillino, 3 we 
have very few more letters from her to him, for they were seldom 

1 Carteggi verdiani, II, p. 351. 

2 From the registers at Busseto, by courtesy of the Parroco and Signorina Gabriella 
Carrara Verdi. 

3 1 was once told that Camillino did not die at fourteen or fifteen, but lived as a 
carpenter in the neighbourhood of Busseto. My informant said he could document this. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 217 

separated. On 9th September 1853, in accordance with Giuseppina's 
expressed wish to be spared another winter at Sant' Agata, Verdi 
asked Cesare De Sanctis if he could find an apartment at Naples for 
two persons, and if a lady, coming with him with passport in order, 
would suffer annoyance from the police. De Sanctis replied that the 
lady would have nothing to fear; to bring a letter of introduction to 
a banker would be the non plus ultra of prudence. However, Verdi 
and Giuseppina did not go to Naples, but to Paris again. The 
departure was preceded by a further explosion of wrath against 
Busseto. This concerned the proposed appointment of Muzio as 
maestro di musica, which, after Verdi had persuaded him to apply, 
came to nothing owing to the vexatious and humiliating conditions 
attached to the appointment. Verdi told the Philharmonic Society 
that he would never again have anything to do with the musical affairs 
of Busseto: 'In any other town, in a musical matter, I should have 
succeeded in obtaining what you and I want; in any other town I 
should have had the support of the civil and ecclesiastic authorities. 
. . . Elsewhere I should have succeeded; at Busseto (it is ludicrous!) 
I have failed. The proverb is old: Nemo propheta in PatriaUV x 

Verdi and Giuseppina returned to Paris in the middle of October, 
to the Second Empire of Napoleon III, which had succeeded the 
Second Republic. They were now to stay in France for more than 
two years. The long promised libretto by Scribe and Duveyrier, Les 
Vepres Siciliennes, was delivered at the end of December. Most of 
the music of this opera was written in 1854, very slowly, and without 
enthusiasm. Verdi's thoughts were often elsewhere. He told the 
Countess Maffei he had no idea of settling permanently in Paris: 
'I love too much my desert and my sky.' He had 'a fierce desire to 
return home'. To Cesare Vigna, who had reported the successful 
revival of La Traviata at Venice, he wrote: 'A time will come, and it's 
not very far off, when I shall say: "Farewell, my public; have a good 
time; my career is over: I'm going to plant cabbages."' The summer 
months were spent in the country, at Mandres, and from there in 
September Verdi reported that he had finished four acts of the new 
opera. Rehearsals were begun in October, but interrupted by the 
disappearance of the principal soprano, the eccentric German singer 
who called herself Cruvelli. Verdi made use of this to ask for release 
from his contract. In a letter to Giuseppina Appiani, already dis- 
cussed, 2 he said that if he obtained his release from the contract he 
would at once return to Busseto, but only for a few days. 'Where 
shall I go? I couldn't say ! ' Probably he would have taken Giuseppina 
Strepponi to Naples, to avoid another winter amid the mist, rain and 
snow at Sant' Agata. But la Cruvelli reappeared, and it was necessary 

1 Giovanni Drei, 'Notizie e documenti verdiani' (Aurea Parma, 1941), fasc. I— II. 

2 See p. 114. 



218 THE MAN VERDI 

to stay in Paris. Seemingly endless and exhausting rehearsals fol- 
lowed; Les Vepres Siciliennes was not produced until 13th June 1855. 

On 28th June Verdi told the Countess Maffei that he hoped to be 
in Italy in a fortnight; but he was kept in Paris for another six months, 
struggling to prevent his operas being given in an unworthy manner, 
and without payment of royalties, by Calzado, a Spaniard who had 
taken over the management of the Theatre Italien. During this time 
he was also engaged in lengthy and often acrimonious correspondence 
with Tito Ricordi about translation rights, performing rights, con- 
tracts, printing errors, piracy, royalties and publishers' trickeries. 
Ricordi's agent had not done his duty: 'So I have to stay in Paris, 
wasting my money! As usual, the expenses and annoyances are for 
me, the profits for other people!' He reminded Ricordi that the 
latter's 'colossal fortune' derived largely from his operas. 'I have 
never been considered as anything but an object, a tool, to be made 
use of as long as it works. Sad words, but true! ' 

Towards the end of December Verdi and Giuseppina were back at 
Sant' Agata. On 7th February 1856 Verdi described his life there to 
De Sanctis: 'Total abandonment of music; a little reading; some 
light occupation with agriculture and horses; that's all.' Piave was 
sent for, to discuss the transformation of Stiffelio into Aroldo ; this 
was not regarded as a difficult task. On 1st April Verdi told the 
Countess Maffei: 'I can't help admiring your goodness and constant 
friendship for this poor Bear of Busseto. I'm not doing anything. I 
don't read, I don't write. I walk in the fields from morning to evening, 
trying to recover, so far without success, from the stomach trouble 
caused me by / Vespri Siciliani. Cursed operas ! ' 

Nevertheless, on 15th May he signed a contract for a new opera, to 
be given at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, during the next Carnival 
season. This was to be Simon Boccanegra. And he was still considering 
writing an opera based on King Lear for Naples. In June, on medical 
advice, he went with Giuseppina to Venice for the sea bathing; at the 
end of July they returned once more to Paris. This was intended to 
be a visit of about a fortnight, to dispose of his house and furniture. 
'Verdi is coming to Paris', Escudier was told, 'but the Maestro 
remains in Italy.' But as usual he became involved in musical affairs, 
in spite of himself. He brought, and lost, a lawsuit against Calzado, 
an attempt to prevent him giving La Traviata and Rigoletto at the 
Theatre Italien, and then agreed to supervise the production of // 
Trovatore in French at the Opera. These things kept him in France 
until January 1857. 

Back at Sanf Agata, with his stomach 'torn to pieces', he had to 
work on Simon Boccanegra. The opera was eventually produced, not 
very successfully, at Venice on 12th March. 

More and more the theme of country life, farming, 'the fields', 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 219 

recurs in his letters. ' My dearest Vigna,' he wrote on 1 1th April 1857, 
'I too shall be frank with you (as for the rest I am always, with you 
and with everyone) and shall tell you that I haven't written before 
now because from morning to evening I am always in the fields, in 
the woods, among the peasants and animals — the quadrupeds being 
the best. Arriving home tired, I haven't until now been able to find 
time and courage to take my pen in hand.' Vigna was asked: When 
will you find the courage to come to spend a fortnight or so in these 
sandy wastes? Peppina and I would receive you with open arms, for 
you know how much we love and esteem you.' Giuseppina herself 
wrote to Leon Escudier on 4th July of the same year : ' His love for the 
country has become a mania, madness, rage, fury — anything you like 
that is exaggerated. He gets up almost with the dawn, to go and 
examine the wheat, the maize, the vines, etc. . . . Fortunately our 
tastes for this sort of life coincide, except in the matter of sunrise, 
which he likes to see up and dressed, and I from my bed.' 

Giuseppina had accompanied Verdi to Venice for the production 
of Simon Boccanegra. She accompanied him also to Rimini, where 
Aroldo was produced on 16th August. The days of her 'exile' were 
over; she now passed everywhere as his wife. Her letters from these 
years are rather scarce, so that it is not possible to decide precisely 
when she began to use Verdi's surname. We have nothing between 
the note to Piave of 27th March 1853, which, five years after they had 
set up house together, is still signed 'G. Strepponi', and a letter in 
French to Leon Escudier of 15th February 1857, which is signed 
'Josephine Verdi'. It will be recalled that she seems to have objected 
to the use of her maiden name by Mme Appiani in 1854. Abbiati x 
makes the neat point that in July 1856 her handkerchiefs bore the 
initials 'G.V.' All the other letters we have from 1857 and later are 
signed 'Giuseppina (or Josephine) Verdi', where a surname is used 
at all. On 24th December 1857 Verdi himself told De Sanctis: 'I 
shall come to Naples with my wife.' 

The visit to Naples, early in 1858, lasted nearly four months. It was 
embittered for Verdi by the fierce struggle with the Neapolitan 
censorship over the opera eventually known as Un ballo in maschera; 
in the end, the opera was not given at Naples at all; claims for 
damages for breach of contract were dropped when Verdi agreed to 
return later in the year to put on Simon Boccanegra. However dis- 
agreeable the litigation over Un ballo in maschera, Giuseppina 
enjoyed her long-planned winter at Naples and made a host of new 
friends. These included Cesare De Sanctis and his family, the 
cartoonist Melchiorre Delfico ('the Great Neapolitan Nadar'), the 
librarian of the Conservatorio, Francesco Florimo (' Lord Palmer- 
ston'), Baron Giovanni Genovese, the poet Nicola Sole, the painters 
1 II, p. 365. 
*H 



220 THE MAN VERDI 

Domenico Morelli and Filippo Palizzi, Vincenzo Torelli and many 
others. They are all immortalized in the cartoons of Delfico, together 
with Verdi, Giuseppina and the tiny Maltese spaniel Loulou, pre- 
sented by Piave. 

Neapolitan resistance to Verdi's supremacy in the Italian operatic 
world had now almost wholly collapsed. Torelli had surrendered 
long ago. Mercadante, who in 1853 had still been fighting bitterly, 1 
had also laid down his arms. This is shown by a letter preserved in 
Giuseppina's autograph album: 

To the celebrated 

Signor Cav. Giuseppe Verdi, 
from Mercadante. 

24th March 1858. 
Dearest Friend, 

Yesterday my wife dropped in to see you, to ask you, together with 
your good lady, to spend the evening of the 26th at my house, where some 
pieces of music are to be performed. 

Not having had the pleasure of encountering you, the present letter 
serves to renew the invitation and declare myself 
Your affectionate 

Saverio Mercadante. 

By the end of April Verdi and Giuseppina were back at Sant' 
Agata. 'After the turmoil of Naples', Clarina Maffei was told, 'this 
profound silence is more welcome than ever. It would be impossible 
to find an uglier place than this, but on the other hand it would be 

1 Reminiscences of Mrs Squires, an American soprano who, under her maiden name, 
Lucy Escott, sang in Mercadante's Violetta at Naples in 1853, are published in Blanche 
Roosevelt's Verdi: Milan and Othello (London, 1887): 

'Verdi had conquered northern Italy, but in Naples Mercadante reigned supreme. 
He would not listen to the sound of the former's name. He declared even Rigoletto was 
bosh — you know I was then singing Gilda at the Teatro Nuovo; he had the court and 
highest society for his patrons, and managed to set everybody against poor Verdi. 
Things went so far that he organized a cabal against him at court, and when Trovatore 
— which, by the way, after Rome, the people would have — was brought out at San 
Carlo, Mercadante had so ingratiated himself with the censor, Lord Chamberlain, and 
I don't know who else, that they only allowed two acts of Trovatore to be sung, and 
there was a perfect revolution in the town until the third and fourth acts were accorded 
the management. ... It is impossible to conceive the tricks and cabals against Verdi 
put up by old Mercadante. One would have thought that, as he was old and nearing his 
grave, and his last opera at San Carlo had been a failure, he would have had some 
consideration for the young and struggling artist; but on the contrary he kept Verdi out 
of Naples as long as he could: the people finally wouldn't stand it any longer; they weren't 
going to put up even with Mercadante at his best when there was a fresh new composer 
taking Italy by storm, when every Italian capital was singing his operas, and Naples, 
according to all, the very seat of fine arts, the only city deprived of hearing Verdi and 
acclaiming his works. . . . The worst of all was to see that poor Mercadante. ... I had 
been singing a year every night in Mercadante's Violetta, but even that success was 
feeble compared with the enthusiasm over the new work; as we say in America, Merca- 
dante went about growling like a bear with a sore head. . . .' 

A crazy campaign on Mercadante's behalf, against Verdi, has been fought in recent 
years, single-handed, by Biagio Notarnicola. I have dealt with his writings, with as much 
seriousness as they deserve, in 'Mercadante and Verdi' (Music & Letters, Oct. 1952). 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 221 

impossible for me to find a place where I could live in greater free- 
dom.' He asked for news of Milan: 'It is ten years since I last saw 
that town, which I loved so much, and in which I spent my youth and 
began my career. How many dear and sad memories I have of it! 
Who knows when I shall see it again? ' To Torelli at the end of May he 
wrote: 'You have retired to the country, and I am in a real desert. I 
have not seen anybody now for a month : I run all day from the house 
to the fields, from the fields to the house, until, when evening comes, 
dead tired, I throw myself into bed, in order to begin all over again 
next day. Peppina reads, writes, works: I do nothing at all. A real 
brute.' In August he was supervising the construction of a bridge over 
the stream in front of the house. 

Signor Antonio had a slight stroke, causing everybody great 
concern. 'But he has been so well looked after', Giuseppina told 
Leon Escudier on 19th August, 'that no trace of it is now to be seen. 
Indeed, yesterday he insisted on going down to his shop to count the 
money! We scolded him thoroughly, but as our voices haven't a 
silvery sound he turned, and will always turn, a deaf ear to our 
remonstrances.' Giovannino Barezzi in the same month asked for 
a loan of 6,000 francs. He got it, together with a lecture about the 
way people at Busseto, commencing with Giovannino himself and 
almost all of his associates, continued their ill-natured gossip about 
Verdi's affairs. 

Giuseppina was spared another winter at Sant' Agata by the return 
to Naples for Simon Boccanegra and then by a stay of two months in 
Rome for the production of Un ballo in maschera. The Roman 
impresario concerned was Jacovacci, whose daughter, Giuseppina's 
godchild, was now eighteen years old. 

In 1859 politics burst again into Verdi's life. 

Between 1849, when the last Republican hopes had been destroyed, 
and 1859 we have no evidence whatsoever as to the composer's 
political views. Comments on politics disappear from his letters as 
completely as does the patriotic, warlike vein from his operas. The 
withdrawal into domesticity and the silence of the fields was of 
immense benefit to his art, the increasing humanity, warmth and 
grace of which can be counted not the least of the achievements of 
Giuseppina. But Verdi's heart bled for Italy all the time, and the mere 
success of his operas meant less and less to him. He told Piave that 
if it were known how incredibly indifferent he was to the warm 
reception given to Un ballo in maschera people would be roused to 
hostility, would tax him with ingratitude and with caring nothing for 
the art he professed. 'But no!' he exclaimed, in a rarely confidential 
outburst, 'I have adored, and I adore, this art, and when I am alone, 
and occupied with my notes, then my heart throbs, tears rain from 
my eyes, and my emotion and pleasure are indescribable. But when 



222 THE MAN VERDI 

I think how these poor notes of mine must be cast before beings with- 
out intelligence, before a publisher who sells them to serve for the 
entertainment and the sport of the mob, oh, then I love nothing any 
more! Let's not talk about it.' x The theme of retirement, of 'farewell 
to the muses', recurs ever more frequently, every additional work 
being forced from him, by unforeseen circumstances, by the plotting 
of friends, by the sudden ignition, almost against his will, of the 
creative matter buried beneath the ashes. To tend his farm lands, to 
become a peasant, as he kept saying, was all he cared to do. 

From this spiritual inertia, despondency and disillusion, he was 
rallied by the bugle call of Cavour and Vittorio Emanuele. 

Cavour had been prime minister of Piedmont since 1852, except 
for a very brief interval. By skilful diplomacy, by playing off one 
power or party against another, by forcing through unpopular 
measures which paid dividends later, he had created the possibility 
of a successful renewal of the war with Austria and a move towards 
the unification of Italy under Vittorio Emanuele. By sending Pied- 
montese troops to the Crimea, to fight beside the French and English, 
he had raised the prestige of his country and assured it of benevolent 
support in the future. On 10th January 1859 Vittorio Emanuele had 
declared before Parliament that he was not insensible to the cries of 
sorrow reaching him from many parts of Italy. In the same month a 
defensive alliance between Piedmont and France was signed and 
Princess Clotilde of Savoy married Prince Jerome, cousin of Louis 
Napoleon. All this was just before the production of Un hallo in 
maschera in Rome, and it seems that it was at this time that the cry 
'Viva Verdi!' came first to imply: 'Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re 
D'ltalia.' 2 

Austria was provoked into delivering an ultimatum on 23rd April 
and, three days after the ultimatum was rejected on 26th April, the 
Austrian army crossed the Ticino and invaded Piedmont. This was 
precisely what Cavour wanted them to do. Napoleon III honoured 
his agreement and came to Piedmont's assistance, and in a series of 
battles the Austrians, under General Gyulai, who was far from being 
a second Radetzky, were defeated and driven back, out of Piedmont 
and Lombardy. Soon the Dukes of Parma and Modena fled from 
their territories and the provisional governments set up sought the 
protection of Vittorio Emanuele. 

Sant' Agata was not actually in the front line, but it was near enough 
to it at one time. Giuseppina wrote to De Sanctis on 21st May: 

We are well, and unafraid, but preoccupied with the grave things that 
are happening. At eight o'clock this morning the gates of Piacenza, about 

1 Carteggi verdiani, II, pp. 353-4. 

2 It is highly unlikely that it bore this meaning already at Naples in 1858, as stated by 
some writers. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 223 

eighteen miles distant from us, were closed and the drawbridges raised. 
Part of the Franco-Piedmontese army is moving to the assault of that 
fortress and we shall hear tomorrow, or perhaps this evening, the thunder 
of the guns. Verdi is serious, grave, but calm and confident in the future. I 
am certainly more disquieted, more anxious, but then I am a woman and 
of more lively temperament than he. For the rest, you will understand that 
the thought of such things is not calculated to excite a senseless merriment. 

Before long gunfire was heard almost daily, but farther away, the 
Austrians having blown up the forts of Piacenza and retired. Things 
were going well. On 20th June Verdi drew up a subscription list for 
the benefit of the wounded and the families of the fallen. He headed 
the list himself with a contribution of 25 gold napoleons; Giuseppina 
followed with an independent contribution of 4 gold napoleons, and 
the next names were those of Verdi's father, Verdi's bailiff, his friend 
Dr Angiolo Carrara, notary of Busseto, and Antonio Barezzi. ' What 
miracles have happened in these few days ! ' Verdi wrote to Clarina 
Maffei on 23rd June. 'It doesn't seem possible. Who would have 
expected such generosity from our allies? For myself, let me confess 
and say, mea grandissima culpa, that I did not believe the French 
would come to Italy or, in any case, shed their blood for us, without 
any idea of conquest.' There followed the victories of Solferino and 
San Martino. But then, on 12th July, Napoleon signed the Treaty of 
Villafranca, which brought peace, but left Venetia still in Austrian 
hands. Verdi was shocked and disgusted. 'Where then is the longed- 
for and promised independence of Italy?' he asked Clarina. 'What 
is the meaning of the Proclamation of Milan? Isn't Venice a part of 
Italy? After such victories what a result! How much blood shed in 
vain! How many poor young people deluded! And Garibaldi, who 
has sacrificed his old and constant beliefs for the sake of a king, 
without obtaining the desired result! It is maddening!' 

According to Gatti, Toye and many other writers, Verdi and 
Giuseppina were married at Collonges-sous-Saleve in Savoy on 
29th April 1859 — the very day of the Austrian invasion of Piedmont. 
This is a mistake, deriving from an inaccurate copy at Villanova 
d'Arda of the entry in the registers at Collonges. The marriage took 
place on 29th August of that year. 1 The officiating priest was the 
Abbe Mermillod, then rector of the church of Notre Dame at Geneva, 
who had made all the arrangements. According to Verdi himself the 
parish priest of Collonges was 'sent out for a walk' and the only 
witnesses were the bell-ringer and the cabman who had brought them 

1 A true copy of the entry is given by Luzio, Carteggi verdiani, II, p. 29, from the 
Journal de Geneve of 8th October 1913. Don Ferruccio Botti procured, independently, a 
copy of the entry from Collonges and pointed out the mistake in the Gazzetta di Parma 
for 5th November 1951. Verdi himself mentions that the date is wrong in the copy now 
at Villanova d'Arda, in a letter to Giuseppe Piroli of 17th April 1869 {Carteggi verdiani, 
III, p. 63). 



224 THE MAN VERDI 

from Geneva. The marriage is not mentioned in any of the composer's 
letters from this time. 

If the war of 1859 had not brought fulfilment of all the Italian 
hopes, much had yet been gained. Lombardy was free, and Parma, 
Modena and Tuscany opted by plebiscite for union with Piedmont. 
Verdi, representing Busseto, was among those chosen to convey the 
result of the plebiscite to Vittorio Emanuele at Turin. The delegates 
saw the king on 15th September and two days later Verdi, by arrange- 
ment with Sir James Hudson, British minister to the court of Pied- 
mont, paid a visit to Cavour, who had resigned at the news of the 
Treaty of Villafranca and retired to his estates at Leri. What Herzen 
called Cavour's prose translation of the poetry of Mazzini won 
Verdi's whole-hearted support. The passionate republican of 1848-9 
became in 1859 a loyal subject of Vittorio Emanuele. 

Cavour returned to office on 21st January 1860. By the Treaty of 
Turin on 24th March Napoleon recognized the annexation of the 
central Italian states, following the plebiscites, in exchange for the 
secretly pre-arranged cession of Savoy and Nice to France. This was 
the price that had to be paid for the supposedly generous French 
intervention, to the indignation of many, including Garibaldi, a 
native of Nice. 

The year 1860 saw immense progress in the unification of Italy. 
Garibaldi, taking matters into his own hands, landed with his 
thousand volunteers at Marsala on 1 1th May, outwitted the Neapoli- 
tans and entered Palermo on 27th May. On that day Verdi wrote to 
his friend Mariani, the conductor: 'Hurrah, then, for Garibaldi! By 
God, he is truly a man before whom one should kneel!' Soon all 
Sicily, except the forts of Messina, was in Garibaldi's hands. On 20th 
August he crossed to the mainland and on 7th September entered 
Naples in triumph. Cavour, alarmed at the possible effects of Gari- 
baldi's impetuosity, sent the Piedmontese army, under General 
Cialdini, into the Papal States. We have a comment on this in another 
of Verdi's letters to Mariani: 'Tell me of other music. . . . What of 
the quavers and semiquavers of Cialdini, Garibaldi, etc.? . . . Those 
are composers ! And what operas ! What finales ! To the sound of the 
guns ! ' After the annexation of the Papal States had been completed, 
and Garibaldi had placed the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the 
hands of his king and retired to Caprera, his island home, Giuseppina 
wrote to Antonio Capecelatro at Naples: 'Do you love Giuseppe of 
Caprera? I hope so. It is impossible that you should not be an 
enthusiastic admirer of the purest and greatest hero since the world 
was created.' 

The last of what may be called the love letters of Giuseppina to 
Verdi dates from towards the close of this year. 

Many years had passed since they had first set up house together, 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 225 

but the burden of Giuseppina's letters had not changed. Still she felt 
lost without him. Still the shadow of her past hung about her. And 
the news from Busseto was still of bad weather, ill health and the 
shameful calculations of the Barezzi brothers : 

Tuesday evening, 4th December 1860. 
Dearest, 

This accursed place! You perhaps won't receive the letter I wrote this 
morning until Thursday. Cristoforetti did not make his usual second 
round today. I am sorry, but it's not my fault. 

Here it is raining in torrents, uninterruptedly, and I'm afraid that at 
Genoa it will be doing the same. Poor Verdi, what fine entertainment 
for you ! 

I sent Giovannino to Busseto and he has consulted the oracle Sancho 
Panza. It seems that instead of being in debt to his father, he is his creditor 
to the extent of 29 gold napoleons. What do you say to that? For the rest, 
the affair is progressing and I believe they will bring it to an end without 
your further assistance. Good luck to them, and long life to him whom 
they wish dead! 

My stomach has left me a little in peace today, but in order to try my 
patience my tooth has been very troublesome; add to that the dreary 
weather and you will understand what sort of mood I'm in ! Today I dined 
in the hall, taking about ten minutes over it ; this evening I had supper in 
my room. The big hall without you is too deserted and that empty place at 
table makes me sad. In going to sleep think of me — think of the com- 
panion who has lived with you for so many years and would like to go on 
living with you for as many centuries. Don't pull an ugly face! I would 
seek and perhaps find in my heart a way of never being tiresome or a 
hindrance to you, and so as not to be so now, either, I '11 say farewell and 
go to bed. I wish you a quiet night and a blue sky tomorrow. 

5th December. 
It's idle to contemn the climate of Paris so much, when here there are 
fortnights of leaden skies, like those that oppress us now. Doors, windows, 
etc., are swollen by the recent torrents of rain, and it seems as if the marrow 
of one's bones were swimming in this unhealthy fluid — unhealthy, at any 
rate, when absorbed in that way. And what are you doing? How are you? 
Are you enjoying yourself? I hope you are enjoying yourself, but I 'm not 
very hopeful about it, unless the sun is shining at Genoa. Have you seen 
Marcellino? Has the corrupting city air begun to seduce him? I don't 
know what to do about Gigia. There are so many pros and cons that I 
hover irresolute between yes and no, like the tomb of Mohammed between 
heaven and earth. You, who are now far away and free, therefore, from 
all influences, give me your opinion, instinctively, without reflection. 

Giuseppina had this constant need to communicate with Verdi. One 
letter had been finished on Tuesday morning, another begun on 
Tuesday evening and continued on Wednesday. And on Wednesday 
evening she added this : 



226 THE MAN VERDI 

Perhaps when this letter arrives you will be at Turin, if, as you intended, 
you decide definitely to see Cavour and Sir James. What a thing it is to 
have genius ! One goes to pay calls on ministers of state and ambassadors, 
just as I go to see Giovanna. And yet that which obliges the world to take 
off its hat to you is the quality about which I never think, or hardly ever. I 
swear to you, and you won't have difficulty in believing it, that many times 
I am quite surprised that you know anything about music ! However divine 
that art, and however worthy your genius of the art you profess, yet the 
talisman that fascinates me and that I adore in you is your character, your 
heart, your indulgence for the mistakes of others while you are so severe 
with yourself, your charity, full of modesty and mystery, your proud 
independence and your boyish simplicity — qualities proper to that nature 
of yours, which has been able to conserve a primal virginity of ideas and 
sentiments in the midst of the human cloaca ! O my Verdi, I am not worthy 
of you, and the love that you bear me is charity, balsam, to a heart some- 
times very sad, beneath the appearance of cheerfulness. Continue to love 
me; love me also after death, so that I may present myself to Divine 
Providence rich with your love and your prayers, O my Redeemer! 

One would like to close this chapter with this sublime passage, this 
great hymn, in which a noble woman lays her heart bare. But the 
letter goes on, and we cannot afford to neglect any part of these 
uniquely revealing documents. Giuseppina continued: 

I re-read this shapeless letter, that perhaps I ought not to send you, but 
I haven't the courage to copy it out again. Although it's the pure expres- 
sion of my feelings, I ought to have written to you in a different style and 
with ideas much more serene. Forgive this spleen, which for some time has 
persecuted me, and which is not the predominating defect of my character, 
but rather of yours. Oh, at last I've found a defect in you, a fault! I'm 
delighted that you've got at least one. I shall keep it in mind, and remind 
you of it on the first occasion that arises. 

I am not very well. I have had no further attacks of cramp, but con- 
tinual threats of them, of short duration. Tomorrow I shall be better. I 
hope so, for your sake. These disturbances prevent me from smiling, and 
I have need of quiet and good humour to get rid of them, and not to present 
you, as I did, with the spectacle of dolorous crises, which I wanted to hide, 
but I had not the strength. 

It seems to me that everything is going on in the house as usual. I 
must, however, tell you that I only went down once, and you will hold me 
excused on account of my health. In any case, the iregularities will concern 
only a bit of bread or meat given away without my permission. When we 
are dead there will be oxen, corn and money left over, of which we shall 
not have been able to make use. So let's close our eyes to these com- 
passionate insubordinations, and agree that they are small troubles among 
the grave miseries of humanity. You will say: 'What a St Augustine you 
are!' It's true, but I'm not always like this. Good night, my Pasticcio. 
Enjoy yourself, but remember that I am at Sant' Agata. 

Your Peppina. 



VERDI AND GIUSEPPINA STREPPONI 227 

There is something rather mysterious about the circumstances in 
which this letter was written. During the summer Verdi had embarked 
on repairs, additions and improvements to the house at Sant' Agata. 
Workmen were still busy during the following winter. The expenses 
of the building operations were a drain on the ready money available, 
and it had been decided that this winter must be spent at Sant' Agata. 
Yet Verdi, as Giuseppina told De Sanctis, felt a strange desire to 
explore the world, just at the time when it was necessary to economize 
by staying at home. On 1st December he had told Giuseppe Piroli: 
'I am leaving tomorrow morning for Genoa, where I shall stay for 
about two months.' And he had gone, leaving Giuseppina, who was 
unwell and had, indeed, passed recently through more than one 
'dolorous crisis', in charge at Sant' Agata. One does not know what 
arrangement there was between them, and certainly there is no sign 
of a quarrel or shade of reproach in Giuseppina's letter. There is only 
the phrase: 'Enjoy yourself, but remember that I am at Sant' Agata.' 

Verdi, however, before he could have received Giuseppina's letter, 
had already made up his mind to return. He told De Sanctis on 6th 
December: 'I came to Genoa because I felt the need of moving, but 
tomorrow I shall return to Sant' Agata, where I hope to find Peppina 
better.' So, instead of two months, he was away only five days. 



CHAPTER 



Giuseppina at her Writing-desk 



G 



iuseppina's surviving letters to Lanari and to Verdi have 
enabled us, in earlier chapters, to explore the mysterious world of her 
youth on and off the stage, and to catch more than a glimpse of her 
subsequent life with Verdi, in retirement at Sant' Agata and elsewhere. 
Apart from these two series, we have only a handful of other letters 
from early years. But from the time when she became everywhere 
recognized as Verdi's inseparable life-companion, and of course from 
the time when she was actually married to him, we have a mass of 
correspondence from her, a source of invaluable information and 
unending delight. As soon as she was allowed to accompany him to 
Venice, Naples, Rome and other places, and thus to make the 
personal acquaintance of many of his friends and admirers who could 
not visit Sant' Agata, she was able to relieve Verdi of much of the 
burden of his private correspondence. Giuseppina wrote fluently and 
charmingly in Italian and French; she could also write, less fluently 
but no less charmingly, in English. Next to a letter from the Maestro 
himself, the friends could wish for nothing better than one from 
Peppina. She possessed outstanding narrative powers; she could be 
witty, wise and sympathetic; she had great understanding and much 
common sense; an occasional sparkle of malice adds savour to her 
writing. When occasion demanded she could take off her elegant 
gloves and administer a sharp and salutary verbal box on the ear. 
Her charity, sometimes in abeyance where Busseto was concerned, 
deepened as she grew older. Her goodness, her kindness and her 
devotion to Verdi's welfare stream out from her letters and compel 
one to love her. The most revealing things are often tiny vignettes of 
domestic life at Sant' Agata, as when she tells how she is able to relax 
if she knows that the house is clean, that the dinner won't turn out 

228 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 229 

too badly and that none of Verdi's buttons is missing, or explains 
that the periodical deterioration in her handwriting is due to Verdi 
banging his fist down on the other side of the table, where he is 
playing cards with a friend. 

A letter to Vincenzo Torelli, 1 editor of the Neapolitan Omnibus, 
opens appropriately for the purposes of this chapter with a descrip- 
tion of the postal service in the backwoods of the Duchy of Parma : 

Busseto, 12th September 1858. 
Dear Torelli, 

If I paid attention to Verdi I shouldn't be writing to you even now, 
because today as always he goes on repeating: 'This evening I'll write to 
Torelli myself and I '11 give the letter to the carrier tomorrow.' Let it be 
told in secret, so that Verdi doesn't take offence: here at Busseto there is 
no post office yet. A man arrives twice a week, modestly mounted (on 
Shanks's pony), to distribute and collect the very few letters of these 
illustrious citizens, who perhaps think a lot, but hardly ever write at all, 
and what little they do write reduces itself to an occasional business letter 
offering to buy or sell fat pigs. You know the salami are exquisite in this 
progressive town! But let's go back to where we started: I am writing to 
you in spite of what Verdi says. He once, after promising me to write to a 
certain person, whom you don't know, let almost two years go by! In the 
end I wrote myself and asked forgiveness for his long silence, without 
however promising that he wouldn't repeat the offence. Verdi in this respect 
will die impenitent. The person concerned had the goodness to reply at 
once, and to forgive, even though it was two years ! 

You, Vincenzo Torelli, as it's not yet one year since Verdi last wrote to 
you, do you feel sufficiently generous to forgive, without comment? I 
believe you do, because although there are some people who consider you 
a Big Devil (mind, it's better to be a Big Devil than a big . . . something 
else !), I am not altogether of their opinion. I think (not to make a com- 
parison, but to express my idea) you're a bitter-sweet sauce. Well then, 
unfortunate is he who bumps into you and sets in motion the bitter 
substances; fortunate, however, he that happens on the sweet ones: you 
are capable of much good. I hope that this letter arrives in one of these 
honeyed moments and thus that you will pronounce the ego te absolvo, the 
absolute pardon for Verdi's silence. 

You are well; Mariannina, Maddalena and all the Torellis are well; I 
am glad and I pray God (will He follow my advice?) to give you good 
health, plenty of money, peace and fine pictures, without the dangerous 
proximity of Verdi, who would end up by stealing some of them from you. 
I am fairly well now, but I have been poorly for a long time. ' But the past 
is past; think of the future' (Piave's words — I don't want to take credit for 
what is not mine). 

As for Verdi, he is fantastically well (keep your fingers crossed!) and, 
judging by his complexion, is worthy to go to the colonies to plant sugar- 
cane. I can swear to you that in all these months he hasn't written a note ! 

1 San Carlo. Numero unico (Naples, 1913-14). 



230 THE MAN VERDI 

As for letters, he has perhaps written a thousand — minus the last two 
noughts ! But he has given close attention to the construction of a bridge in 
front of the house, and not a tree has been planted or uprooted without 
him being present in body and in spirit. Now he's beginning to give an 
occasional glance at the cover of the new score, which will almost certainly 
be given in Rome. I put my trust in the bad weather and the impossibility 
of going out, so that he may find it necessary to take up his pen again. 

This letter illustrates Giuseppina's insight into human nature. 
Torelli, a difficult, rather unscrupulous man, was not popular with 
some of Verdi's other Neapolitan friends. De Sanctis thought him a 
heartless and vindictive egotist, and reported various things to his 
discredit in letters to Sant' Agata. But Giuseppina respected his 
independent character. Torelli himself referred in a letter to Verdi to 
' that amiable and acute Signora Peppina, who understood us before 
we spoke, and distributed rewards and punishment so graciously, 
making peace between us all'. Another instance of her judgment is 
seen in a letter to her old friend Mauro Corticelli, 1 called 'Don 
Cappellari' from his aptness to take offence {prendere cappello), who 
had announced that he was giving up a career as theatrical agent and 
impresario at Bologna to become secretary to the actress Adelaide 
Ristori: 

Rome, 15th January 1859. 

Giraldoni has given me your letter, which I read with greater pleasure 
than the other ones. God be praised! You are leaving that vicious atmos- 
phere, in which your honest nature could not help but suffer. I told you 
from the first moment when you plunged into that stinking swamp: 
'Corticelli, that's no place for you, no occupation for you!' You could 
have got out of it sooner, but at any rate you have got out in time. Well 
done, my dear Cappellari! I am exceedingly glad that you have accepted 
la Ristori's proposals and are putting your intelligence and probity at her 
service. I don't know la Ristori personally, but I follow with interest her 
artistic triumphs, and still more her actions, which are noble, in truth, and 
worthy to be put on a level with her talents. So I repeat again : I am sin- 
cerely glad. May God always bless her, you and all honest hearts that 
resemble yours. 

Verdi is so tired, sated, disgusted with the stage that there is every 
probability that he will say regarding the theatre what Rabelais in his last 
moments said regarding life : ' Bring down the curtain ; the farce is over ! ' 
His will be done. No man, certainly, can boast of being more honest than 
he is, or of having earned with more dignity the means and the right of 
leading an independent existence. 

The beginning of 1860 saw an important development, when 
Giuseppina began to keep letter-books, on the lines of Verdi's own 

1 The originals of most of the letters to Corticelli quoted here are in the Scala Museum. 
They were used in part by Gatti. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 231 

Copialettere. She was to continue to do so up to 1892. Five large 
foolscap volumes, preserved at Sant' Agata, record the bulk of her 
correspondence over more than thirty years. And here, in addition to 
her own letters, we find, in her hand, drafts of many letters which, 
with little or no modification, were subsequently copied and sent off 
by Verdi as his own. Giuseppina, in fact, had become a sort of ideal 
private secretary. Now and then Verdi would alter a too flowery 
phrase, erase or condense a passage, or substitute a more energetic 
expression for that used by Giuseppina. Sometimes he had to soften 
a too outspoken remark of hers. But in general she was astonishingly 
successful in drafting letters for Verdi in his way of writing, practically 
indistinguishable from those he wrote himself. A few of the entries 
are copies of his letters, others may be copies, or may have been 
dictated by him, but the vast majority of the letters in Verdi's name 
in these books are certainly Giuseppina's work, as the appearance of 
the pages, with erasures, fresh starts, corrections and alternative 
passages shows. The dates of the drafts in Giuseppina's hand in the 
letter-books are often one day, and sometimes several days, earlier 
than the dates on the letters themselves. 

A fairly close description of the first group of letters in the first 
volume will give some idea of the nature of the contents and of 
Giuseppina's activities as Verdi's private secretary. 

The volume opens with the draft of a rather stiff letter from Verdi 
to Tito Ricordi, in Verdi's own hand, but with slight revisions by 
Giuseppina. Tito Ricordi, owing to his indifferent health, tended to 
leave too much in the hands of subordinates. Complaints received 
from Rome indicated that the parts of Un ballo in maschera had 
arrived late and were still full of mistakes, although these had been 
pointed out in the previous year : 

I indicated all these mistakes to you, but I have reason to believe that 
nobody in your business has deigned to glance at this poor opera. As a 
new work is concerned, it would be worth the trouble to do something 
about it, if not for its musical value, or for the good name of the composer, 
at least for the honour of your establishment. Similar complaints have been 
made to me many times, and I have never written to you ; but now, feeling 
that things are going too far, I think well to tell you frankly that if you 
cannot or do not wish to occupy yourself with your and my affairs, you 
should find people either more able or more willing to do so. 

In order to by-pass the secretary through whose hands it was supposed 
Ricordi's correspondence would pass, this letter was sent by Giusep- 
pina to Tito's wife, with a covering note from herself. The copy of this 
covering note, dated 15th January 1860, is on the next page of the 
letter-book, and is Giuseppina's own first contribution. 

The following entry, dated from Busseto, 15th March, is a draft 
or copy, in Giuseppina's hand, of a letter of recommendation 



232 THE MAN VERDI 

addressed by Verdi to the governor of Milan, Massimo D'Azeglio, 
on behalf of Piave, who had transferred himself after the Treaty of 
Villafranca from Venice to Milan. Piave's formal application for the 
post of producer at La Scala x is dated two days after this entry in the 
letter-book. On 15th March Giuseppina also drafted for Verdi a 
letter to the mayor and municipality of Milan, who had invited him 
to compose a national anthem. She tried to sweeten the inevitable 
refusal by a paragraph in which Verdi was made to promise to do his 
best in this matter when Italy should be wholly free from the foreign 
yoke. But all this passage was then crossed out by Verdi himself. On 
the following day Giuseppina drafted for him another refusal, this 
time of the post of provincial councillor. 

It fell to her lot to prepare a large part of Verdi's French corre- 
spondence. In this same month of March he had been invited to join 
Auber, Berlioz, Halevy, Thomas and others in a printed denunciation 
of the musical notation and teaching of Emile Cheve. His reply is 
found in Giuseppina's letter-book. 

I have read very carefully the brochure about the Cheve question. That 
is another of the numerous follies of those with a mania for innovation at 
all costs! I believe myself to be as progressive as anybody else, and I 
declare myself ready always to approve everything that I recognize as good 
and useful. But what is the use of changing the names and the signs 
universally known and adopted in music? I do not think there is any 
serious musician who could conscientiously approve of the chaos in which 
music would find itself if M. Chev6's bizarre fancy were, so to speak, 
sanctioned and officially adopted. That is why, gentlemen, I unrestrictedly 
approve the ideas and observations expressed in your brochure, and, since 
you are pleased to consider me worthy, I beg you to add my humble name 
to your own. 

This is wholly in Giuseppina's hand, with the spelling of some words 
heavily corrected, perhaps after consultation of a dictionary {con- 
sciencieusement, chaos, bizarrerie). 

There follows, also in March, the earliest known letter to Giovanni 
Minghelli-Vaini, who was to be defeated by Verdi in the following 
year in the election for the deputyship of Borgo San Donnino in the 
Italian Parliament. But in 1860 Verdi had no thought of such a 
development. He had promised Minghelli-Vaini his support in the 
coming elections; then Minghelli-Vaini had decided not to contest 
the seat and asked Verdi to support another candidate whom he 
hardly knew. In this letter drafted by Giuseppina, with various 
alterations also in her hand, Verdi refuses: 'I know too little about 
the person you propose I should support, and I should like to give 
my push (however feeble) to one I know very well. You could draw 

1 Reproduced by Gatti, first edition, vol. ii, p. 21. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 233 

my attention to the fact that we ourselves haven't known each other 
very long. That is true. But I am perfectly well acquainted with your 
genealogy and know very well that you are a vieux de la vieille, and 
not a Liberal of yesterday!' 

Patriotic feeling could occasionally bring Verdi again into super- 
ficially amicable relations with Busseto. Even Giuseppina, when a 
demonstration of loyalty was called for, was prepared to emerge 
from her retreat. The next entry in the letter-book is her own, a copy 
of a circular address to the women of Busseto : 

The ladies of Parma forming part of the committee constituted at 
Bologna have deputed me to collect subscriptions among my fellow towns- 
women towards a gift to be offered to the king in the name of the women 
of Emilia. 

Busseto has hitherto shown itself on every occasion to be sincerely 
Italian, and thus I have reason to hope that the women of Busseto of 
every class will not fail to associate themselves with the rest of the women 
of Emilia, to give this brave and most Italian king a demonstration of 
affection and gratitude. 

The poor and the rich can contribute according to their means, since to 
give testimony of love for the king is not the privilege of the wealthy, but 
the right of every good Italian. 

Giuseppina Verdi. 

The response seems to have been lukewarm. A cancelled draft of a 
letter to the committee members at Parma begins: 'Living always in 
the country and having very little to do with Busseto, I haven't been 
able to collect a larger sum than that which will be handed over to you 
by Signor . . .' The final reply, dated 9th April, says she had hoped 
to raise a larger sum, but it was not possible, there having been too 
many subscription fists in recent months. 

Between the cancelled draft and this final reply is a copy of a private 
letter, dated 1st April, from Giuseppina to the composer and impre- 
sario Achille Montuoro, then in Paris, ending with a cordial invitation 
to Sant' Agata, in spite of the alterations then in progress, and 
promising food to his taste with plenty of maccheroni and no cold 
meat. Another of Giuseppina's private letters follows, the draft of 
that to Cesare De Sanctis of 14th April, published in the Carteggi 
verdiani, with the delightful confession: 'We have been for a month 
now in our solitude, which merits that name more and more, because, 
except for Signor Antonio, we see literally no one. I assure you I am 
almost losing the use of my tongue, a rather strange thing in a 
woman. . . .' 

She made up with her pen for the loss of the use of her tongue. 

The first eleven entries, then, include one letter in Verdi's hand, 
five drafts or copies of letters written by Giuseppina for Verdi and 
three official and two private letters of her own. The importance of 



234 THE MAN VERDI 

these letter-books is all the greater since the period of Giuseppina's 
most active secretarial collaboration largely fills the enormous gap 
from 7th October 1858 to 20th September 1867 in Verdi's own 
Copialettere. Luzio devotes about fifty pages of the second volume of 
the Carteggi verdiani to Giuseppina's letter-books. The material, 
however, is of vast extent and would fill several volumes the size of 
the Verdian Copialettere, as published. 1 Giuseppina included much 
of her private correspondence, whereas Verdi did not, and as a result 
her letter-books present a far fuller picture, and are altogether more 
personal and intimate in character than his. Besides the letters, there 
are also occasional entries in the form of diary notes, never kept up 
for long, but of the highest interest. Here secrets are recorded that 
would otherwise have been lost for ever. To read the letter-books 
from beginning to end is to live over again in imagination Giusep- 
pina's life during thirty years — an enthralling experience, at times 
exalting, at times profoundly saddening and disturbing. One emerges 
with enormously enhanced sympathy and respect for this wonderful 
woman in her difficult role of wife to a man of genius. 

A letter to Leon Escudier of 30th April 1860 describes Verdi's 
intervention at Busseto, inspired by patriotism and common sense: 

He has persuaded the municipal authorities to present the king with a 
gun, on which will be inscribed: 'Offered by Busseto.' 

He told them, in a brusque but feeling manner: 'Illuminations and 
celebrations are useless and do nothing to drive away the enemy, who is 
still at our gates. They don't even prove our love for our king. We shall do 
that better by providing him with the means of fighting the Austrians and 
rendering our country strong and respected. He has need of soldiers and 
of arms. We have given all we could of our youth. We have subscribed 
towards rifles for Garibaldi. Now, instead of celebrating his expedition 
with illuminations and other frivolities, let us present the king with a 
gun.' And the poor Bussetani voted unanimously to give the king a gun, 
with full equipment. . . . You will perhaps smile at these small matters, but 
if you were in Italy you would be moved, witnessing the exertions of a 
people rising from death to recompose itself as a nation. 

And to think that you have allowed Lamoriciere to come and associate 
himself with the Croats, to extinguish this divine spark of national feeling ! 

We know very little about the later history of Giuseppina's family. 
Some information can be drawn from her letters and letter-books. 
On 14th July 1860 (9th July in the draft) she told De Sanctis: 'You 
didn't read very carefully what I wrote about Locate. . . . That is not 
my home town, but my mother lives there. I went to see her because 
she was seriously ill. I was born in the glorious city of Lodi, which 
has the best milk and the best cheese in the world.' Locate Triulzi is 

1 Including the huge appendix, that is, with supplementary material added by the 
editors. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 235 

about ten miles south of Milan. Giuseppina's mother lived there after 
she left Pavia until November 1868, when she moved, or was moved, 
to Cremona with her younger daughter Barberina. Both Giuseppina's 
brothers had died at an early age. A letter to De Sanctis of 14th 
December 1860 refers to a black shawl, left over from mourning worn 
for the death of one of the brothers, which could then be put to other 
uses by the addition of a coloured border. The letter-books record no 
correspondence with Giuseppina's mother, who was perhaps illiterate 
like Verdi's parents, but there are many letters to Barberina Strepponi, 
who in later years was a frequent visitor to Sant' Agata. Barberina 
was a lifelong invalid, a nervous wreck with supposedly consumptive 
tendencies, who nevertheless proved surprisingly tenacious of life, 
long surviving both Giuseppina and Verdi, and dying at a great age 
during the First World War. Many later entries in the letter-books 
show Giuseppina continuing to contribute towards her sister's 
support: 

4th April 1867: 

[in English] Written to my sister, and send a quarter of pension, 17 gold 

francs. 

27th June 1867: 

Written to Barberina. [in English]. Hundred francs to pay looking- 
glasses and remaining for her. 

17th December 1867: 

[in English] Written to Barberina and send, instead of 340 francs, 400 

francs. The 60 francs for Christmas day and pays for her windows. 

Mercede Mundula has charmingly said that almost the only trait 
of the nineteenth-century prima donna which Giuseppina retained in 
later life was the love of an entourage of animals — dogs, cats, pea- 
cocks, pheasants, parrots and other cage birds. Among all the pets 
the favourite was the little Maltese spaniel Loulou, 1 on which was 
lavished all the maternal affection of a childless woman's heart. 
Verdi, too, loved this dog : 

December 1860, Giuseppina to Leon Escudier: 

I shall only speak en passant of my nightingales, so as not to make you 
jealous. They are in my room and sing as if it were May. As for my pea- 
cocks (I have eight of them!!) they are very unhappy! They like to sleep 
in the open air and this inexorable continual rain soaks them to the 
marrow. My white Loulou whom you saw when he was quite small is the 
most beautiful dog in the world and all the world has to obey him. Verdi 
has the patience to walk around with his dog under his cloak, in such a 

1 Giuseppina writes 'Loulou', always; Verdi writes 'Lulu'. It was a dog, and not a 
bitch. 



236 THE MAN VERDI 

way that just his nose is outside, so that he can breathe. Our country house 
will be given a name, and the name will be that of Loulou. 

It had been proposed that Verdi should contest the deputyship of 
Borgo San Donnino in the coming general elections. He was himself 
resolutely opposed to this idea. But in January 1861 he received a 
personal appeal from Cavour, urging him to lend the prestige of his 
name to the first Italian national parliament. He left at once for 
Turin, intent on securing release from what to him would be an 
onerous and unwelcome distinction. During his absence a letter 
arrived from Minghelli-Vaini, seeking confirmation or denial of the 
rumour that Verdi was to stand for election. Giuseppina wrote to 
Minghelli-Vaini on 16th January: 

Verdi is away from home at the moment, and as I am authorized to 
open his letters, I am replying briefly, so that you won't accuse him of 
negligence. I know for certain that he is disinclined to play the role of 
deputy, so you can go ahead without fear that he will oppose you. More- 
over, I can add that it is just to obtain exemption from such an honour 
that he is at Turin, and I hope he will succeed. 

As it happened, this was the wrong reply, and it would have been 
better if she had waited. For Verdi was persuaded by Cavour and Sir 
James Hudson, the enthusiastic British minister at Turin, to accept, 
after all, the candidature of Borgo San Donnino. The rather comical 
ensuing correspondence with Minghelli-Vaini is printed in the 
appendix to the Copialettere. Both the letter of 23rd January, in 
which Verdi refuses to accept the suggestion that he should offer 
himself as a candidate for election elsewhere, leaving Borgo San 
Donnino to Minghelli-Vaini, and that of 29th January, in which, 
with unnecessary emphasis, he insists on his integrity and his horror 
of intrigue, are found in Giuseppina's letter-book, in her hand. The 
former was certainly written by her; there are two drafts; the first, 
after many alterations, was then erased; the second has small altera- 
tions in Verdi's hand. The letter of 29th January is dated one day 
later in the letter-book: someone made a mistake in the date, but 
Giuseppina's version appears to be the first draft. 

Verdi defeated Minghelli-Vaini in the election on 27th January, but 
by an insufficient majority; a second ballot on 3rd February resulted 
in his definitive victory. His last letter to his opponent had ended: 
'I have said and I repeat for the hundredth time: I shall accept, 
against my will, if I am nominated, but I shall never do anything, nor 
ever say a word, to secure nomination. Let that serve to close a 
correspondence between us that should never have been opened.' 
But Minghelli-Vaini still could not let well alone. He addressed 
himself to Giuseppina, who would seem to have known him before 
Verdi. She replied on 13th February: 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 237 

First of all, let's correct a mistake: our friendship is not of twenty years' 
duration, but of fourteen or fifteen. I know that wine and friendship 
acquire excellence by age, but women lose it. Now although I am near to 
acquiring what is called a venerable appearance, I am nevertheless a 
woman and in consequence not at all disposed to accept, even from the 
best friend in the world, the unwelcome gift of half a dozen extra years. 
The first point being settled, let 's go on to the second. 

Verdi, although surprised and nauseated by the re-staging of these 
elections, has nothing against you and is convinced that in spite of your 
desire to be deputy you have done nothing in the least shady. For the rest, I, 
who have been your friend for forty years (!) and know you well, have 
assured him that you cannot help being what you always were — un homme 
franc et loyal. He shakes your hand and begs you to excuse him if for the 
present he does not reply in person, occupied, enraged and tormented as 
he is by preparations for his journey, and by arrangements he has to make 
for his house here before leaving. I, too, am going to Turin, and that will 
certainly make serious inroads on my savings. I am getting out and folding 
the tail coats. 

The first Italian parliament met at Turin on 19th February. Various 
patriotic Bussetani went to see what could be seen and were ques- 
tioned eagerly on their return by Antonio Barezzi. A letter of his to 
Verdi includes the passage: 'I am very glad that Signora Peppina is 
well, but I would so much have liked to know whether she was present 
in parliament on the first day. None of our people could tell me for 
certain.' Giuseppina reassured him in an affectionate letter on 25th 
February: 

Verdi being very busy in the Chamber of Deputies, he charges me to 
reply to your most welcome letter of the 23rd. I shall skip everything 
connected with the recent celebrations at Turin. You will have read 
detailed descriptions of them in the newspapers, so 'amen' to all that. 

I was present at the opening of parliament, in a very good position. 
Armed with my opera-glasses, I was able to study at my convenience the 
physiognomy of the king, the ministers, the ambassadors, the generals and 
as many of the others as attracted my attention by name or dignity. If the 
gentry from Busseto weren't able to give you exact information about 
that, it was either because they hadn't access to the Chamber, or because 
they did not know me personally. 

Verdi hasn't received even a line from his bailiff. Perhaps when the 
latter addressed his letter he was thinking about the world of the moon, 
and in his distraction directed it to Peking. Any letter to ' Giuseppe Verdi, 
Parliamentary Deputy' will reach its destination. Tell him so, adding that 
the Parliament at Turin is meant, not the English one in London. 

I don't know where Signor Ciro Demalde got his information that we 
are lodged in a private house. Your son Giovannino came to see us on the 
19th and found us at the Hotel Trombetta. . . . 

Last night Verdi went to the Teatro Regio, in a reserved stall, hoping 



238 THE MAN VERDI 

to remain incognito. But at the end of the second act of La Favorita he 
was recognized and they began to shout 'Viva Verdi! ' and everyone, from 
the boxes to the pit, stood up to salute the Great Composer of Le Roncole. 
If they only knew how well he composes risotto alia milanese God knows 
what ovations would have showered on his shoulders ! 

I have related these little stories because I know that you, my excellent 
Signor Antonio, do not share the opinion of the Preacher, who in his 
Ecclesiastes says: 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,' etc. Ovations for Verdi 
have always made you weep. Get out your handkerchief, for I am con- 
vinced that at this moment you are wetting the spice-box. 

Verdi's earnings were largely invested in land and property. The 
extensive alterations at Sant' Agata had left him short of ready 
money, and this fact increased the attractiveness of an offer, early in 
1861, of 60,000 francs, with all expenses paid, for a new opera to be 
written for the Imperial Theatre at St Petersburg. The tenor Enrico 
Tamberlik acted as intermediary between the management of the 
theatre and the composer, and his proposal reached Sant' Agata 
enclosed in a letter from Corticelli, whose travels with Adelaide 
Ristori had led him at this time to St Petersburg. The course of the 
negotiations which eventually resulted in the composition of La 
forza del destino can be followed in Giuseppina's letters to Corticelli. 
The idea of a trip to Russia seems to have appealed to her from the 
start: 

Verdi will reply direct, as soon as he is back; in what terms I don't 
know, but from certain words that have escaped him it seems he is no 
longer so averse to taking up his pen again. ... If I were not afraid of 
committing forgery, I would gladly alter that imposing figure of twenty- 
two below zero, which will make him open his eyes wide in fright. As for 
myself, I took refuge almost under the stove, reading that sentence, as if 
the frosts of Russia had already assailed me. ... In any case, however poor 
an advocate I may be, I shall gather together, on this occasion, the shreds 
of my eloquence, to try to persuade him to expose his nose to the danger of 
freezing in Russia. If I don't succeed by eloquence, I shall employ a means 
which, as I 've been assured, succeeds even at the frontiers of Paradise with 
St Peter, and that is, to insist, to make a nuisance of oneself, until one gets 
what one wants. It's true that Verdi is less patient than St Peter, and if, in 
the end, he sends me to bed, it won't be the first time, and I shall have to 
be quiet. 

She was not sent to bed, and Verdi proposed Hugo's Ruy Bias as the 
subject of the opera for St Petersburg. But it was thought there would 
be difficulties with the censorship and a telegram from Tamberlik led 
Verdi to believe that the management had uncompromisingly rejected 
the idea of Ruy Bias. No other suitable subject could be found and 
Giuseppina almost lost hope. Then, when it was seen that Verdi 
would not commit himself to write an opera before he had a subject 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 239 

to his liking, suited to the singers available and approved by the 
authorities, the Russians changed their tune. Tamberlik's son Achille 
was sent with wide powers to Turin to negotiate with Verdi, who had 
himself, meanwhile, had second thoughts about the possibilities of 
Ruy Bias. In a letter to Corticelli, then in Paris, Giuseppina on 17th 
April told of the successful outcome of Achille Tamberlik's mission : 

He arrived, saw the terrain not too favourably disposed, and swore to 
conquer, in spite of the fact that Verdi, profiting by the veto on the subject 
pronounced by the famous telegram, was much more concerned with the 
Chamber than the theatre. Then he quietly began to discharge his mission, 
rectifying the mistake of the dispatch and declaring with the utmost calm 
that Verdi could set to music Ruy Bias or anything else, he having instruc- 
tions to grant every possible condition that could be asked, except only 
that of obliging the Czar Alexander to proclaim a republic in Russia. 
Verdi scratched his head, pointing out that there was this difficulty about 
Ruy Bias, that difficulty about other plays he had looked through; that a 
certain play he had once read, and liked, could not be found. That was 
enough, and, the title being made known, behold us making the rounds of 
the bookshops and second-hand dealers of Turin, leaving no alleyway 
unexplored. Nothing ! Not to be found ! In the end it was given to Verdi 
(who, to be just, was as active as the rest of us, since he sees no seemly way 
of getting out of it) to seize by the scruff of his neck a certain person who 
was going to Milan, where alone it would be possible to find the play, and 
whence he in fact received it within twenty-four hours, to the great con- 
solation of Tamberlik, who, although he affirmed with the greatest pleasure 
in the world that he liked Turin and would gladly stay there for a month, 
yet as soon as the Gordian knot had been untied hurried off and will have 
halted, I think, only in Paris. So now it is ninety per cent certain that 
Verdi will write for St Petersburg. This being the probability, I have already 
begun to have dresses, petticoats, vests and shirts lined, adapted and 
trimmed with fur. I think not at all about how — before we arrive in Russia 
— the month of July must pass ; the idea of the cold we shall have to suffer 
next winter puts out of my head the idea of the heat we shall probably have 
to suffer this summer. And to think that after the disasters and the cold of 
1812 there are still to be found meridional animals like ourselves who of 
their own free will dare to approach the polar bears ! Oh men, men, mad 
from head to foot, including that rib from which we poor women were 
made! Enough! Au revoir then, dear Mauro. (Now I think of it, you would 
do well to change your name, because when I write it or pronounce it I 
seem always to be calling the cat— miaow, miaow, miaow.) In any case, if 
you wish to keep it I shall like you just the same, certain as I am that your 
character does not resemble that of that clawed little animal. 

By the end of May they were back at Sant' Agata; within a few 
days the contract for La forza del destino, based on a Spanish play 
by Angel Perez de Saavedra, Duke of Rivas, had been signed. Then 
there arrived the terrible news of the death on 6th June of Cavour. 
The well-known letter from Verdi to Arrivabene of 14th or 15th June 



240 THE MAN VERDI 

on the memorial service for Cavour held at Busseto is found in draft 
form in Giuseppina's letter-book. But Verdi made some changes in 
it, and for the better, deleting a reference to members of the Phil- 
harmonic Society who had refused to lend their services without 
payment, and generally tightening up the style. The result of this 
collaboration is a completely characteristic Verdian letter, in his best 
lapidary manner. A letter of Guiseppina's own, to Leon Escudier on 
3rd July says : 

You know the calamity that has befallen Italy — the death of Cavour! ! ! 
To tell you that Verdi has wept as at the death of his mother is to tell you 
little. He knew intimately that extraordinary, fascinating, marvellous man. 
That man of state who had conserved (unique privilege!) a heart in the 
midst of diplomacy and politics ! Well, this beloved man, venerated by the 
Italians, has vanished for ever! A month has already passed since his 
death and I cannot speak of it without my eyes filling with tears. 

After this Verdi, who had always voted with Cavour, was rarely 
seen in his seat in the Chamber of Deputies at Turin. 

Adelaide Ristori was to appear again in Russia in the following 
winter, when the new opera was due for performance. ' So we shall 
all meet among the perpetual ice-creams of St Petersburg,' Giusep- 
pina told Corticelli on 17th July. 

Verdi says he has done a foolish thing in signing this contract, because 
it obliges him to work and therefore to sweat too much in the summer, in 
order to go and cool himself down too much in the winter. Quite perfect 
tagliatelli and maccheroni will be needed to keep him in good humour amid 
the ice and the furs. For my part, to avoid all storms, I intend to agree with 
everything he says from mid October to the end of January, foreseeing 
that during the hard labour of composition and rehearsal it will by no 
manner of means be possible to persuade him that he is wrong about any 
single thing! When, therefore, the atmosphere becomes too oppressive I 
shall go and take the air. Wait a bit, though! I was forgetting that the air 
of Russia freezes one's nose ! I shall go to bed, the only place, I believe, 
where one can be comfortable in those boreal regions. By the way, while 
I remember, if la Ristori believes she will hold superiority in the matter of 
tagliatelli, Verdi counts on eclipsing her with risotto, which truly he makes 
in divine fashion. 

Since, in spite of your peregrinations and entourage of actors, you 
remain what you always were, an excellent friend, we gladly accept your 
offer and beg you to provide for us too. We shall stay in Russia about 
three months, from 1st November to the end of January 1862, and there 
will be four of us to provide for — master, mistress and two servants. If an 
interpreter is indispensable, and if it is the custom to give him his meals, 
instead of four of us there will be five. You could provide for us, in pro- 
portion to our numbers, as you do for la Ristori in the matter of rice, 
maccheroni, cheese, salt provisions and those things which you know are 
not to be found in Russia or which are only to be found there at an 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 241 

exorbitant price. As for wine, here is the number of bottles and the qualities 
which Verdi would like : 

100 bottles of light Bordeaux dinner wines, 

20 bottles of fine Bordeaux, 

20 bottles of champagne. 
Perhaps it will cause you less inconvenience to provide more abundantly 
for la Ristori and then to cede to us the portion superfluous for her and 
necessary to us. I will then settle accounts with you on arrival in St Peters- 
burg, having risen from the position of singer to that of housewife, a 
position I much prefer, as you will not find it difficult to believe, knowing 
as you do how little love I had for the boards of the stage. Don't tax me 
with being prosaic! Take note that there can be as much poetry in humble 
and, so to speak, solitary domestic occupations as in that kind of delirium 
one feels and sometimes communicates from the stage to the crowded 
auditorium. 

Her pen would often take flight in the course of copying a letter. The 
beautiful conclusion here was such a sudden afterthought, and does 
not appear in the letter-book where, as Luzio says, 'about her own 
dispositions Giuseppina limits herself to saying: "You know me, 
and know how much I longed to leave the ugly boards of the stage." ' 
The solitude of Sant' Agata sometimes became oppressive, but 
uninvited visitors, including Giuseppina's relations, were not 
encouraged. There had been attempts at intrusion. On 19th July 
Giuseppina drafted a reply to a communication, after a long interval, 
from an aunt of hers, Giovannina Strepponi, at Lodi. 

Your letter of yesterday was a pleasant surprise. So far from having 
forgotten you, I thought I had myself been forgotten — and deliberately 
forgotten. I am glad it is not so. . . . After it occurred to that cousin of 
mine, whom I'd never met, to present himself at the house of persons 
unknown to him, with very insistent and extravagant pretensions (to use 
no other term), I wrote you a long letter explaining in detail my position 
and circumstances, and asked you at the same time to tell the said cousin 
to leave me in peace, because his words, his letters and his visits were not 
such as could be to my taste, and much less to that of Verdi. To this very 
long and important letter I received no reply, not even an acknowledgement 
of receipt. The thought at once occurred to me that it could have been 
taken from the post by some culpable person anxious to see from what I 
had written to you what was to be expected on the part of Verdi and myself. 
Your letter of yesterday almost confirms me in this suspicion, which would 
account for my and your silence for so many years. While we are on this 
subject, let me in all frankness ask you never to direct here any of my 
relations, because it would be time and money wasted for whoever came. 
... As for Verdi, I would go to the world's end rather than abuse the kind- 
ness he has always shown me You know, dear Aunt, that I have always 

been fond of you; you know, in fact, that you are the only relation (apart 
from my own family) that I have ever loved spontaneously and through 
sympathy, without considering the ties of blood that bind us. And as you 



242 THE MAN VERDI 

have had the most blessed idea of breaking the icy silence that divided us, 
write to me from time to time and I will make it, not my duty, but a real 
pleasure to reply, with all the affection I feel for you. It is not impossible 
even that I shall come for a moment to press your hand before the winter 
which I shall spend in Russia. Not a word, however — I could in that case 
only stay for an hour, nor should I wish during that hour to see other 
people who might come to profane this colloquy, perhaps the last, with 
the only surviving member of my father's family, with a person who amid 
the sad reality of life has known how to preserve the poetry of the heart ! 

She continued to correspond with this aunt for many years. She also 
sent her money from time to time, as later entries in the letter-books 
show: 

26th December 1868: 

[in English] Written to my Aunt Giovanna and sent forty francs. 

1872: 

To Giovannina Strepponi, with 50 francs. 

A visitor whose presence at Sant' Agata was both welcome and 
necessary was Piave, to whom the libretto of La for za del destino had 
been entrusted. He came several times from Milan during the summer 
and autumn of 1861 and was given a number of household com- 
missions : 

Dear Piave, 

A silver cruet-stand made at Milan would cost 350 francs?! ! ! Full stop 
and begin again! 

Poet most gracious, buy the plated cruet stand and bring it to Sant' 
Agata, not full of oil and vinegar, but provided with a little Cayenne 
pepper and with what can't be found in this Eden to fill the six little vessels. 
As for the effect it could have on the Natives, there's no need to bother 
about that. The Natives, as you know, don't frequent the modest and 
tranquil house of him who has honoured the town as artist and Italian. 

An inimitable account of another of Piave's visits is given in a letter 
of 9th October to Tito Ricordi : x 

Verdi and I were surprised to see friend Piave arrive looking like a 
commercial traveller, furnished, that is, with boxes, packages and parcels. 
As someone else was present, he could not at once embark on his Dulca- 
mara-like harangue, expounding the wonderful virtues of the elixirs 
contained in the mysterious packages. But as soon as we were left alone 
and unsuspecting, behold him brandishing pincers and hammer : piff, paff, 
puff, out with a ream of paper, from which emerged a most novel pendulum 
clock; trie, trac, he opened the suitcase and lo! among men's stockings 
and ladies' stockings (don't ask me why Piave carries ladies' stockings 

1 Giovanni Cenzato, Itinerari verdiani (Parma, n.d.), pp. 127-8, and previously in the 
Corriere della Sera for 11th August 1934. The draft in the letter-book is dated 6th 
October. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 243 

about with him!) there appeared a pocket case containing a most elegant 
pin. Then, setting his glasses astride his nose, he began to speak: 'Lady 
and Gentleman ! Excuse the liberty, and for love of your poet accept these 
two trifles, which . . .' 'Be quiet, Dulcamara! Poets don't give presents to 
anyone, and for good reasons.' Then, with all the airs and graces of an 
ambassador, he added: 'It is Tito who, returning from Switzerland and 
his one hundredth cure, offers through me, and begs you to accept, these 
two souvenirs.' 

We are much obliged to Signor Tito, but Tito was wrong to indulge in 
compliments with a composer who indulges very little in them, and loves 
contracts with short words and big figures. If such be his will, however, 
thanks to him, on my own and Verdi's account, for this act of exquisite 
courtesy. 

Laforza del destino completed, they set off for St Petersburg towards 
the end of November, stopping only in Paris to pick up a new dress 
suit, ordered in advance from Verdi's tailor, Laurent Richard. What 
happened in St Petersburg is told in Giuseppina's first letter to 
Opprandino Arrivabene, whom she had apparently met for the first 
time at Turin: 

St Petersburg, 1st February (20th January) 1862. 
Signor Conte, 

I should have liked to open my correspondence with you in a very 
different way. Certainly, the news I am going to give you will make you 
open at once your eyes, mouth and ears ! But however you may exclaim 
in every tone of your deep bass voice 'Oh!' 'Ih!' and 'Ah!' the news is 
none the less true — Verdi will not be giving his new opera in St Petersburg 
this year. 

Alas ! The voices of singers are as fragile as ... (I leave you to finish this 
phrase) and the voice of Signora La Grua is, to her and Verdi's misfortune, 
a desolating example of this fragility. Well then, lacking the prima donna 
for whom he had written, and there being no other singer here suitable for 
that part, Verdi asked for release from the contract. The reply to this 
request was a decided ' No ', however preceded, followed and seasoned by 
the most beautiful phrases in the world. Then they agreed to give the opera 
next winter, on condition, etc., etc., etc. 

Here then is Verdi, condemned to confront twenty-four, twenty-six, 
twenty-eight and more degrees of frost — Reaumur! Nevertheless, this 
frightful cold has not troubled us in the least, thanks to our apartments. 
One sees the cold, but one doesn't feel it. Let's be clear about this, however. 
This strange contradiction is a benefit reserved for the rich, who can indeed 
exclaim: 'Hurrah for the cold, the ice, the sledges and other terrestial 
joys!' But the poor people in general, and the coachmen in particular, are 
the most unhappy creatures in the universe. Imagine, Signor Conte, many 
of the coachmen stay sometimes all day and a part of the night immovable 
on their boxes, exposed to deadly cold, waiting for their masters, who are 
guzzling in warm and splendid apartments, while perhaps some of those 
unhappy beings are freezing to death ! Such atrocious things happen every 



244 THE MAN VERDI 

year ! I shall never be able to accustom myself to the sight of such sufferings. 
But I don't want to bore you with too long a tirade. I promised to write to 
you and I have kept my word. 

They returned to Paris, where they spent about a month. Verdi 
was expected in London in the spring, with his contribution to the 
opening ceremony of the International Exhibition of this year. In 
Giuseppina's autograph album is preserved a letter of intolerable 
prolixity from one F. R. Sandford, Secretary to Her Majesty's 
Commissioners organizing the exhibition: 

The object in naming so early a date as the 1st of February 1862 for the 
transmission of the scores, was to prevent the possibility of any failure in 
the execution of the music in a manner that should be worthy of the 
eminent composers who had been requested to represent their respective 
countries on such an occasion as the opening of a great International 
Exhibition. Her Majesty's Commissioners, however, would regret to think 
that the naming of a particular date was in any way likely to interfere with 
the prospect of their being favoured with a work from your distinguished 
pen. They are quite willing to leave it in your own hands to fix the time at 
which you will be able to send the music of the march. 

As is well known, Verdi decided to contribute a cantata, the Inno 
delle Nazioni, instead of a march, and his work, for reasons that are 
not clear, was not performed at the opening ceremony, but was put 
on by Mapleson at Her Majesty's Theatre a little later. Before he 
came to London, Verdi made a brief visit to Turin and Sant' Agata. 
Giuseppina crossed the Channel by herself, about three weeks before 
he did. She occupied herself with study of the English language. No 
anthology of her letters would be complete without some examples 
of her English correspondence. The letter-books include a series of 
enchanting little notes addressed to S. M. Maggioni, a sort of 
resident poet and translator at Covent Garden and other theatres : 

In London. Mister Maggioni. 

If you can and it does not derange you too much be so kind as to lend 
me during my abode in England a French and Italian Dictionary. 

Laugh at me at your pleasure, but I will read, write and speak in English 
at random till I shall be able to understand this infernal language. 

Do not forget what we settled today with regard to Verdi. 

Good night. 

Dear Mister Maggioni, 

I have just now received a letter from my Husband and he can't be at 
London till Tuesday or Wednesday. 

If you have nothing better to do tomorrow come, I beg you, dine with 
me. I have a Leg of Lamb, a Fish, Soup, Salade, at your service. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 245 

Dear Mister Maggioni, 

Verdi arrived last night. He desire to grasp your hand. Then come, I beg 
you, as soon as you can. 

Without doubt, you must to dine with us. 

Good morning. 

One has a suspicion that Giuseppina was sometimes poking fun at 
some of our national institutions, as in the following note, in Italian 
this time, to the baritone Leone Giraldoni: 

Dear Giraldoni, 

Verdi wants a word with you. 

When you have eaten your ten pounds of meat for breakfast, come and 
see us for a moment. 

Good morning, and au revoir, 

Your affectionate friend, 

Giuseppina Verdi. 
London, 29th April 1862. 

Another letter in English, with the postmark 4th May, is addressed 
to Corticelli: 

Dear Friend, 

Well! very well! You have some good aptitude for commercial style, 
and I shall employ you as a Secretary when I shall be able to open a 
Cheesemonger Shop. But, you must submit yourself (before I put you in 
possession of such a noble charge) at an experiment with closed doors. 

You are right in giving all your mind and time to your important things. 
I am not so silly to pretend, that a future Cheesemonger's Secretary, 
ought to occupy himself with trifles : but I am very glad to know it, because 
things being so, I shall buy some trifle in London myself. 

I beg your pardon, for every error that I am sure, you shall find in my 
letter. Be indulgent, and think, Mister Secretary, that I am all alone 
without hope today to see some english person able to correct it. 

I send you the requested autograph, and beg you to remember 

Josephine Verdi. 

On the reverse is this in Italian : 

Dear Corticelli, 

If I have enough time and paper I will translate my letter ; and please 
understand that this scrawl in English must be kept to yourself and Signora 
Ristori, because while I love to joke, I don't want to become an object of 
ridicule. As I wrote it quickly and without the help of anybody, anybody 
at all, I'm still too much a blunderer in this language not to have made 
some mistakes, and God knows of what calibre ! Tell me if you really are 
unable to bother about my rags, so that I may buy here myself a few things 
of which I have much need. 

It is curious that she relied on this friend to buy some of her clothes. 



246 THE MAN VERDI 

Possibly, acting in Ristori's name, he was able to get discount. It is 
also curious that Verdi's wife, apart from occasional presents, still 
paid for all her own clothes, out of her own money. Corticelli was 
now in Paris; a letter to him from London on 6th May says: 

I prefer the cloak — black, of course, plain black. For the rest, I believe 
you are sufficiently well acquainted with my tastes, which are for quiet 
colours — violet, emerald green, black, grey, etc. — for day dresses. As for 
evening dresses, my lord and master is going to give me one this autumn, 
so don't bother, unless it's a case of an excellent bargain going cheaply. 
I count on you, and on your affection for me, to be economical. Did you 
see that a most charming, brand-new dress in a first-class establishment in 
Regent Street can be had for £5 lOs. Qd.1 Let that be y out point de depart. 

Her meticulously kept inventories of the contents of her wardrobes 
include several dresses bought in Paris in the spring of this year. 

From contemplation of the Regent Street shop windows her 
thoughts turned to Sant' Agata where she was soon to return: 
' Perhaps if the solitude of that place were not so absolute, and at 
times sepulchral, I should completely forget that cities exist. And in 
truth I only think of them when months and months go by in the 
profound silence and complete solitude of the fields. A single family 
near us would suffice to break the monotony of that existence.' 

There were visitors at Sant' Agata in the summer, but it was a 
melancholy time. The stay of the tenor Fraschini was clouded over 
by the illness of the beloved pet dog Loulou. Mariani proposed to 
bring Sir James Hudson with him in August, but Verdi had to ask 
for the visit to be deferred. The house was still full of workmen and 
not a single room was completely finished. Several of the servants 
were ill with tertian fever. Loulou died, and Giuseppina was prostrate 
with grief. Worst of all, Barberina Strepponi was thought to be going 
into a decline; she came to stay at Sant' Agata, apparently for the 
first time. 'She is so calm', Giuseppina told a Russian friend, Marie 
Lavroff, 'resigned like a saint, and happy to be with me, whom she 
loves beyond everything and everybody.' A letter of 14th August to 
Corticelli says : 

The first and most serious of the things that afflict us, and afflict me in 
particular, is the illness of my sister, who is declared consumptive. She is 
here with us, and I shall take her home on Sunday, and be back on Monday 
evening, the 19th. She is the only one left to me, out of four brothers and 
sisters. . . . The second affliction (and perhaps some people will smile, but 
I am weeping still as I write) is the loss of my dear Loulou. Four days of 
atrocious sufferings carried him off to rest eternally under a willow in our 
garden, where you too will come to say goodbye to the memory of that 
faithful and charming friend. . . . Verdi is well, and is scoring the opera 
for Russia. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 247 

All went well on the second trip to Russia. ' The opera was success- 
ful', Giuseppina told Corticelli, 'in spite of the colicky contortions 
of the Teutonic party, for whom, on the other hand, I feel sorry, since 
after so many years of shouting to all the winds that German operas 
are the best, the public obstinately leaves the theatre empty when they 
give them, and runs in crowds when this ugly rubbish Un ballo in 
maschera, La forza del destino, etc., is announced. Imagine, eight 
performances of La forza del destino have already been given, with 
the theatre constantly packed. A fine sight for the impresario ! The 
Czar, who attended only at the fourth performance, having been 
prevented before that by acute eye and throat trouble, called for 
Verdi by name, and wanted, too, to have him in his box, where he 
and the Czarina smothered him in compliments. On the day of his 
annual departure for Moscow he sent Verdi, motu proprio, the Order 
of St Stanislas (Commander's Cross, worn round the neck). As for 
the indemnity for having come twice to Russia, it was highly satis- 
factory.' 

There are no outstanding letters from the year 1863. A visit to 
Madrid for another production of La forza del destino, followed by a 
tour of Andalusia, did not inspire Giuseppina. A stay in Paris, where 
Verdi had promised to superintend a revival of Les Vepres Siciliennes, 
terminated in a breach with the Opera and return to Sant' Agata. 
Then the bailiff ran away; his defection is commemorated in the 
letter-books in a sonnet in dialect. Life at Sant' Agata was restful, 
after the journeyings in Russia, England, France and Spain, but rather 
dull and, as the winter came on, dreary. These are not very exciting 
years in the lives of Verdi and Giuseppina. 

The letter-books were neglected altogether in the year 1864, but the 
correspondence with De Sanctis and Corticelli fills the gap. The 
Neapolitan friends were often lectured on family limitation — without 
much effect — and on their political attitude after the collapse of the 
Bourbon regime. Baron Genovese, whose bald head is so conspicuous 
in Delfico's cartoons of Verdi at Naples, had apparently fled from 
the city on the approach of Garibaldi's legions in 1860. A letter in 
Verdi's hand in the National Library, Vienna, of 3rd January 1861, 
says: 'After this permit me to say that you were wrong to be afraid, 
to sell out madly, and above all to leave your country at a time like 
that.' The letter to Genovese was drafted by Giuseppina and appears 
in her letter-book under the date of 29th December 1860 — five days 
before it was actually copied by Verdi and sent. Now on 3rd January 
1864, in a letter of her own, she discussed with De Sanctis the prob- 
lems of Italian unity: 

Your political point of view has rejoiced our hearts. So there are 
Neapolitans who understand the position, see the difficulties that exist, 
and are just enough and of sufficiently good faith to recognize them? God 



248 THE MAN VERDI 

be praised ! Unfortunately, however, there are among the Neapolitan and 
Sicilian deputies some great talkers, full of violence and anything but in 
favour of the unity of Italy under Vittorio Emanuele. They would like to 
fish in troubled waters, with the Prophet of London and his associates. 
As for the ingenuous Garibaldi, he has come down a great deal in the 
opinion of right-thinking people. 

This probably represents the views also of Verdi, and shows again 
how far to the right he had moved since the days when he had written 
Suona la tromba for Mazzini. Garibaldi had incurred disapproval 
through his ill-advised misadventure on Aspromonte in 1862. 

We have several letters about doctors. A recommendation to 
Corticelli of a young surgeon, who was going to practise at Florence, 
says: 'I know that virtue matters little when it's a question of 
amputation, of cutting off a leg or an arm; but it matters a great deal 
when he who is capable of doing that occupies a position where 
humanity and justice are the comfort, and sometimes the only com- 
fort, of unhappy beings condemned to their beds, where often they 
suffer as much morally as physically.' But she had little belief in Dr 
Frignani and his colleagues. Caterina De Sanctis had recently brought 
another baby into the world, which had not lived long. Giuseppina 
on 27th March 1864 comforted her, and suggested various cures, to 
be taken all at once : 

The first is good humour, sovereign remedy indicated by the great 
Rabelais, celebrated as doctor and philosopher in his day. I, a country 
lady-doctor, unrestrainedly approve and warmly advise it. Begin then by 
ceasing to weep for the little angel who has returned to God's bosom. He 
is better off than we are and without fear for the future. For the rest, if you 
had no other children I should be a bit sorry for you, but as you already 
have a sufficient number of them and possess, too, a factory in full activity 
for the multiplication of the De Sanctis, I can't feel sorry for you at all. So 
dry your tears quickly and read my second prescription. 

Send to the Devil all doctors, great and small! One hundred and one 
out of every hundred don't understand a thing and are charlatans, with 
the appetites of musicians ! I believe (I speak seriously) in the ability of a 
surgeon who amputates properly an arm or a leg — that is something I can 
see. I believe in the efficacy of certain waters, but as for the chatter, the 
prescriptions, the opinions of those conceited asses who pretend they 
know all about our insides — I don't believe in them at all! Take twenty 
doctors and it will be pure chance if two find themselves in agreement. 
Guesses, guesses — and one understands why. Medicine does not yet 
possess a microscope, telescope, stereoscope, or whatever you like to call 
it, for examining and seeing well the bowels! Therefore don't sublimate 
yourself with sublimate, but pack your bags and come to see us. A grand 
cure is a change of air and the distraction of travelling! And fifteen miles 
from our shanty there are two miraculous springs — and I have seen the 
miracles with my own eyes. It's an ugly bathing establishment where 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 249 

one does not dine in Lucullan fashion, but where many regain their 
health. 

The 'shanty' was still undergoing repairs and alteration. In April it 
was 'an Inferno', with workmen everywhere. On a visit to Genoa 
Giuseppina herself fell ill, and spent nearly three weeks in bed with 
gastric fever. She wrote to Corticelli on 7th July : 

As you know, we are back home again, after the unhappy, forced sojourn 
at Genoa. Enough — it is over now and convalescence is proceeding 
regularly, although I feel physically exhausted. And you are off to Egypt? 
A mere trifle to you ! Do you intend, perhaps, to give performances in the 
interior of Africa? I hope you enjoy it! Give my respectful regards to the 
crocodiles, the pyramids and the mummies. Among the latter perhaps 
you '11 find the Marchese Sampieri. If so be careful, for the Love of God, 
not to give him my regards. He would be quite capable of reviving, to come 
and annoy me, and annoy the musical world as he did for the space of so 
many centuries ! 

The Marchese Francesco Sampieri (1790-1863), friend of Rossini, 
musical dilettante and composer, would seem to have been among 
Giuseppina's early admirers. The letter continues : 

In truth, in spite of my weakness and a certain hypochondria, the 
consequence of my gastric fever, I can't help laughing at the thought of 
you going to perform in Italian to the Egyptians. What famous gipsies 
you are! 

I do beg of you to write to us, to stay fond of us, and to find sometimes 
a way of coming to spend a little time at Sant' Agata, where, I assure you, 
the quiet is like Paradise. Verdi is well, sends his kindest regards, and 
hopes to see you dressed as a Pharaoh. He has been, as always, full of 
affection and solicitude during my illness and, what will seem strange to 
you, but is nevertheless true, he has even found the way to be patient! 
As you can imagine, I am grateful to him for that, with all my heart ! 

Our greetings to the Ristori family. And you, excellent and most dear 
friend, accept a paw-shake from your affectionate 

Giuseppina Verdi. 

She was feeling a bit catty when she next wrote, on 17th September: 
'The Morchio family, Father, Mother, Daughter and Holy Ghost, 
were here at Sant' Agata. Teresa had four or five photographs of 
Bianca in divers poses which (the photographs, not the poses !) added 
to the forty-five left behind at Genoa, will make up the fifty! ! ' Again : 
'Don't talk to me of Sicily, of the province of Naples, of Spain, etc., 
etc. They are countries, peoples, nations, full of pride, ignorance and 
lice!' 

At the moment I'm in such a black mood that I would make a great 
roast of the human race. Don't be afraid, for if I had such power I should 
make a few exceptions and should scatter here and there some Cadmuses, 



250 THE MAN VERDI 

Deucalions and Pyrrhas, to repopulate, in rather better fashion, this earth, 
which, physically speaking, is in great part very beautiful. 

Corticelli was not entirely happy in his position and talked of giving 
it up. Giuseppina, who knew him well and suspected that he had been 
quarrelling with someone, or perhaps again too easily taken offence, 
gave him some characteristically sensible advice : 

Listen carefully, homoeopathic mortadella ! If you wish to separate from 
la Ristori because you find that kind of life too tiring for you I have 
nothing to say, as you must think first of all of your health. But if it is for 
another reason, and the travelling is not too much for you, consider also 
your interests and as long as a certain delicate point of honour is not 
involved (you know what I mean) don't pay for your punctilio out of your 
own pocket. Do you understand? ... I warmly embrace you, and hope 
you'll become more of a gipsy than ever, if that's possible, for then you 
will travel with your gipsy band to California, Australia, New Zealand and 
the interior of Africa, and we shall thus gain precise ideas of those distant 
parts. 

Cesare De Sanctis had lost his wife early in August, in spite of all 
medical and lay prescriptions. Giuseppina wrote to him on 19th 
September: 'I really flattered myself, until your letter came, that we 
should see you arrive at Sant' Agata to pass a few days in this pro- 
found quiet, which calms the blood and, if it does not heal the sorrows 
of the heart, sets on them, nevertheless, a seal of mystic melancholy 
and grave solemnity that helps one to bear them with courage and 
resignation.' Again and again she speaks of the profound silence and 
peace of their life in the country. But again and again, too, she refers 
to her dread of the winter at Sant' Agata, with its ennui and isolation. 
There is a letter of 22nd October 1864, 1 from Verdi to Tito Ricordi, 
the opening of which, though not found in her letter-books, was 
assuredly drafted by Giuseppina. It is, exceptionally, wholly in the 
manner of her own private letters and not a bit in Verdi's style: 'It 
rains and it rains and it rains ! Farewell to the country, farewell to our 
walks, farewell to the beautiful sun, which now we shall only see 
pallid and sick; farewell beautiful blue sky, farewell infinite space, 
farewell desires and hopes of coming to Como ! Four walls will now 
replace the infinite: the fire instead of the sun! Books and music will 
replace the air and the sky; boredom instead of pleasure! ' Verdi was 
occupied in this winter with the revision of his Macbeth, suggested by 
Escudier, but Giuseppina had too much time on her hands. 'Try to 
persuade Verdi to come to Paris', she wrote on 2nd November, 
'without leaving me at Sant' Agata, where at this time of year I am 
most royally bored.' Then a little later: 'Verdi doesn't seem disposed 
to undertake the journey to Paris, or any other journey, so behold us 

1 Copialettere, p. 617, wrongly dated 1862. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 251 

still here at Sant' Agata on 3rd January, while it is wantonly snowing ! ' 
There was a brief escape to Genoa in February and early March, 
but concern about his father's health brought Verdi back home 
again. 

The revised Macbeth had its first performance at the Theatre- 
Lyrique in Paris on 21st April 1865, but was not particularly 
successful. Nevertheless, the management of the Opera soon after- 
wards opened negotiations for a new work. Giuseppina wrote to 
Escudier in June : 

It seems that Verdi has not replied with a refusal to Perrin's offer. 
That is already much, since for a very long time now I have heard him 
singing in every tone : ' I don't want to write,' and frankly I am anxious 
that he should write, because, although I love the country very much, 
three hundred and sixty-five days a year in the country are too many — far 
too many! We have never stayed so long in the midst of these cretins. I 
feel myself stick out my claws like a wild animal and a furious desire for 
movement and destruction overcomes me, to avenge myself for this eternal 
immobility! I am no longer young, it is true, but intellectual life is ageless 
and here it is completely lacking. It would seem that the great difficulty 
about writing for the Opera would be the libretto. I put my trust in the 
imagination of the poets. ... I know him; once he is engaged the scene 
will change. He will abandon his trees, his building, his hydraulic engines, 
his guns, etc. He will allow himself, as always in such cases, to be overcome 
by the artist's creative fever; he will devote himself wholly to his poem and 
his music, and I hope the whole world will benefit by it. 

Before that happened, however, 'these cretins' were to occasion a 
tremendous outburst of wrath. 

Many pages of Giuseppina's letter-books are devoted to a sort of 
dossier concerning Verdi's feud with Busseto, which came to a head 
in the summer of 1865. The municipal theatre, long projected, was 
nearing completion and the authorities expected that Verdi would 
allow the theatre to be called by his name and would use his influence 
to secure some of the most famous singers of the day for the opening 
ceremony. Possibly they hoped, too, that he would write a new opera 
for them. These hopes and expectations seem to have been based on 
remarks he had let fall in private many years before, when the idea 
of the new theatre at Busseto had first been mooted. But the mayor 
now declared that the composer had given his solemn promise of 
adherence to these schemes and the theatre had been built for him. 
Verdi reacted violently, as always when he felt that an attempt was 
being made to force his hand. His angry but reasoned reply, pub- 
lished in the appendix to the Copialettere (pp. 434-5), without the 
recipient's name, was addressed to Giovannino Barezzi, who had 
come forward as spokesman for Busseto, although he was not a 
member of the theatre commission. 
*i 



252 THE MAN VERDI 

Meanwhile Giuseppina had begun to gather together and copy out 
documents and notes for the presentation of the case against Busseto. 

She turned first to two letters Verdi had written' twenty years before 
to Antonio Barezzi. Only part of the first is transcribed : 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost ! I cross myself before 
replying to your most welcome letter and put myself in God's grace, so 
as not to talk rubbish. A theatre at Busseto? I don't believe it, I never shall 
believe it ! . . . Poor us, if that came about ! The end of the world is at 
hand! ... I'll write the opera (if you like), subject always to my engage- 
ments — and everybody knows that I 've six operas to write. I can't promise 
anything about la Frezzolini and Poggi, but there is every probability. . . . 
Take courage, and as you are building castles in the air, let them be 
beautiful ones! 

The rest is condensed by Giuseppina: 'The letter continues, speaking 
of Paris, of Escudier and the affairs he proposes. It ends with these 
words : " I commend to you the theatre. Dream well ! " This letter must 
be — is, in fact — of 1845.' Here was probably the fons et origo of the 
claims made upon him, for in that remote period he had certainly not 
frowned upon the idea. But the castle, at that time, had only been 
built in the air. It had been discussed again about ten years later and 
the mayor held that it was then that Verdi had committed himself. 
Construction of the theatre had been decided on on 28th August 
1857, and work had begun two years later. At some time during his 
deputyship (i.e. after 3rd February 1861) Verdi had suggested that 
work on the theatre should be suspended and the money contributed 
to the national cause. But the building had been completed, except 
for the interior decorations, by 18th October 1864. 

The first document in Giuseppina's dossier is otherwise unknown. 
The second (' Copy as above of a letter of Verdi's ') appears without 
precise date in the Copialettere (pp. 14-15). Giuseppina, however, 
would seem to have retrieved the originals from Barezzi for her 
purposes. Her transcription of the second letter is precisely dated and 
differs in many details from the version in the Copialettere. Verdi, in 
this dispute of 1865, added annotations to his old letter: 

Milan, 12th June 1845. 
I have read the theatrical project, and I must tell you with my customary 
frankness that I am not happy about it. (1) In truth it was not a very 
delicate action to make use of my name and compromise me before the 
authorities on account of a word I may have said in confidence between 
friends ; and if it was wished to make public use of this word of mine I 
should first have been asked. (2) In all the towns in the world they have 
built theatres without having anyone to write an opera for them, or to 
sing it for them, and if Busseto had that advantage it should have availed 
itself of it without calculating on it and making it its principal basis. By 
that I don't intend to withdraw my word, but how can one speak now of 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 253 

1847? (3) Haven't I got to write in that year for Naples and for the 
publisher Lucca? And isn't it enough that I promise for myself? Must I 
promise for the singers too? That is something quite new! Here are the 
words I said in this connection : ' Perhaps, perhaps, we could get la Frezzo- 
lini and Poggi' (in saying that I did not promise anything). In a moment 
of enthusiasm (for I don't deny that I liked the idea of a theatre at Busseto) 
I flattered myself about that, because, besides the friendship existing 
between me and those artists, when I last said goodbye to la Frezzolini she 
said : ' We are resting this autumn ; come for a fortnight to stay with us in 
the country, and we will come to you at Busseto and there we'll give a 
concert for the benefit of the poor.' I replied: 'I take you at your word but 
not for this year, because I haven't a house yet; however, next year I 
expect you without fail.' But if in the year when they want to open the 
theatre la Frezzolini has in her hands a contract (which means to say 
40,000 or 50,000 francs), who will be so crazy as to propose she should 
come and sing for nothing at Busseto? . . . 

(1) Those who occupied themselves with the theatre at that time at 
least had the grace to show me the project. 

(2) Discretion is not an outstanding virtue in general. It seems that at 
Busseto they regard as official any word that may have escaped one 
by way of conversation, when this word furthers their interests and 
aims. Nor do they seek, as persons who act with delicacy and 
prudence should, to have this or that word, said en passant, con- 
firmed, but they invent that word, or they take him who uttered it 
by surprise. For them the law changes its purport, and they keep 
their word, even the most formal and written word, only when and 
as it suits them. 

(3) And in any case, if in 1845 it was impossible to speak of 1847, that 
means to say that it is more absurd to speak in 1865 of a word 
(even admitting there were such) spoken academically in 1854-5. 
One must also take into consideration the different circumstances 

From the ancient history of the theatre Giuseppina turned to ' the 
affair of Emanuele Muzio', transcribing, probably from the same 
source, two documents relative to the climax, in 1853, of the long- 
drawn-out negotiations concerning the post of maestro di musica. 
Just as Verdi had been induced to give up a much more lucrative 
post at Monza for the benefit of his home town, so Muzio, who was 
beginning to establish himself as a conductor, had agreed to return 
there, stipulating however that he should be left some free time to 
pursue his career in the theatre. Giuseppina copied out his letter to 
the Mayor of Busseto about this : 

I have the honour to advise you that after many difficulties I have 
succeeded in obtaining a promise in writing of my release from the engage- 
ment which bound me to the direction of the theatres of Padua for a period 
of three years. Now (and with pleasure) I am able and prepared to accept 
the vacant post of Maestro at Busseto. I believe it unnecessary to recall to 



254 THE MAN VERDI 

your memory that, as in the past, so today I should refuse to submit 
myself to a competitive examination. Among the new conditions there are 
some too onerous for me to accept, so it would be necessary to modify 
them by common consent. 

Should you decide to proceed with this matter, it would be necessary not 
only that I should have a reply, but that everything should be settled by 
12th September, as at that time I have to leave for Bologna, and write 
definitely to Padua as to whether I accept or not the requested release 
from contract. 

The result had not been all that had been hoped. To objections from 
Busseto as to Muzio's terms Verdi had replied, probably to Antonio 
Barezzi, in these words : 

I am frank and always say what I think. Emanuele, this time, is not 
wrong. Must he wait and hold himself at the disposition of the affairs of 
Busseto? And even if he had written, or should write, to say he would 
accept, would he be sure of obtaining the post? Must he then renounce 
everything and, I repeat, hold himself at the perpetual disposition of the 
indecisions of Busseto? He has a contract with Padua (I myself arranged it) 
which binds him for the season of the autumn fair and carnival. He has 
accepted for the season at Alessandria and now Mariani (in my presence) 
offers him in the name of Cavour, Minister for Internal Affairs, the post at 
the Teatro Regio at Turin, which perhaps he won't be able to accept 
owing to his engagement at Padua. The mayor says he has had the salary 
from the Monte di Pieta increased. It's natural enough that the salaries of 
the employees should be increased, since the funds have grown and the 
cost of living gone up. But that wasn't enough; they should have given up 
the competitive examination (which is the most stupid thing imaginable) 
and they should have offered — mark well — offered the post to Emanuele. 
If the Minister of Piedmont offers the post at the Teatro Regio at Turin, 
Busseto could well have offered, without loss of dignity, that miserable 
post. But Busseto has a vanity and ridiculous pretensions not found in the 
great cities. It's the defect of that town! 

To settle this business now is more difficult than ever. Nevertheless 
there is still one thing worth trying. Let the mayor offer the post to 
Emanuele in writing to me. I will try with this letter to induce Emanuele to 
accept, and to release him, or at least to come to some arrangement with 
those with whom he has engagements. This is the only way. And let the 
mayor settle about the competitive examination and settle with the priests. 
Let him think too about getting an increase from the ecclesiastical 
authorities, because the present emolument is wretched. This, you know, 
is the only way in which past mistakes can perhaps be remedied. If the 
mayor can't do that, say no more about it and content yourselves with some 
imbecile of a foreigner obtained by competitive examination, instead of a 
native who is certainly no imbecile. The old proverb is very true: Nemo 
propheta in patria. 

In the event, not only had it not been found possible to modify the 
terms of Muzio's proposed engagement, but, not long after he had 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 255 

thrown up the whole idea in disgust, one Ferdinando Savazzini, of 
Parma, had been nominated without a competitive examination. This 
had actually been done on the orders of the minister Salati at Parma, 
who had had enough of these squabbles, but Verdi put it down to the 
account of Busseto. 

These documents from 1853, preserved in Giuseppina's letter- 
book, are otherwise unknown. 

On 20th July 1865, after further correspondence about the theatre, 
and what he had, or had not, promised to do about it, Verdi, or 
Giuseppina in his name, wrote to Angiolo Carrara, notary of 
Busseto : 

Although tomorrow is Friday, if you could come here at six in the 
evening I should be very grateful. There is perhaps reserved for you a fine 
part in the ugly comedy being performed these days at Busseto. I won't 
tell you what this part is, because I want curiosity to act rather as a 
spur. . . . 

The succeeding pages of the letter-book are filled with notes about the 
various ways in which Busseto and the Bussetani had offended. These 
notes are all in Giuseppina's hand, but it is not easy to decide exactly 
what they represent. They are mostly written in the first person 
singular, in Verdi's name, but just once there is a reference to him in 
the third person. It seems most likely that the notes were set down, 
largely from Verdi's dictation, to serve as the agenda, as it were, of 
the meeting with Carrara. Or possibly they were taken down by 
Giuseppina at Verdi's request during the actual interview with the 
notary, who is clearly the 'you' of the opening paragraph. 
Here is the voice of Verdi in his anger: 

The gravest affront is that, having put words and promises into my 
mouth, and demanded, in bad faith and by surprise, the actualization of 
them, which I naturally refused, they have made me out to be a man who 
doesn't keep his word. It is necessary to destroy, by letter or however you 
think fit, the effect of Sunday's commission, and relieve me of the respon- 
sibility that another has put upon me to relieve himself. 

The affair of Emanuele as maestro — the competitive examination for 
him, the nomination of somebody else without examination. 

The letter they want to write to America, 1 to prove that I am a man who 
breaks his word. Fine way of acting — delicate and honest ! 

Apart from my word (which I have never given) why do they want to 
exact so much from me? Is it perhaps on account of those 27 francs and 
50 centesimi a month 2 which they gave me and which they couldn't 
refuse me? 

Is the merit theirs, if they gave them, or the testators'? 

And all this fuss for 1,200 francs? 

1 Muzio was then in America. 

2 Actually, 25 francs a month. 



256 THE MAN VERDI 

Haven't they given them, and aren't they obliged to give them in per- 
petuity, to four youths every year? Cialdi, Bottarelli, etc. — aren't they 
included? Do they wish to punish me, perhaps, for the name I've acquired 
and the honour I've done to the town? 

For the rest, it's a vain and ridiculous mania of the town to wish to 
play the Maecenas by the merit of the dead and 30 centesimi from the 
living. 

There follows a passage which seems to be Giuseppina's own, since 
it refers to Verdi in the third person : 

The pensions were left by those who are no more and the merit belongs 
not at all to those who now cry out so much in the piazza, in the taverns, 
in the cafes and shops, against Verdi who, whether they like it or not, 
made known to the whole world that Busseto was on the map. 

The living, when they go to the theatre and spend a few centesimi, 
think they're the benefactors of the actors, singers and instrumentalists. 
In their view they have benefited all those who have come to Busseto, 
including la Ristori, who, if it hadn't been for them, would not have laid 
the first stone of the edifice of her glory and her fortune. 

It's time to throw off the bandage and to look round rather, and see 
how the world progresses. 

There is another instalment, in briefer notes on the left-hand sides of 
some divided pages. This amounts to a really savage indictment of 
the unhappy town: 

Do they make claims on me because I am rich? Sivioli, Lanbroni— 
aren't they rich too? 

Fofino — breaks into my house. And this is found a matter of indifference 
perhaps because done to me. 

Old Frignani — tries to find out, by direct question, how and by what 
means my wife lives, because the town is not clear about that. By what 
right? 

The engine — for the water. 

La Landriani — to whom was read, but not given, the letter of reparation 
for what was done and written to her by Arfini, who is still in his post. 

Investigation, or rather inquisition, into everything that is done or said 
in my house. 

How no one can frequent my house without becoming an object of 
hatred and persecution on the part of the Bussetani. 

Giovanni B. — cries out in the piazza, and writes with a velvet paw. 
Two-faced, like so many of the rest. Hasn't the courage of his own opinions. 

Diverse opinions. 

To say at every moment this phrase, which, if ridiculous, is still offen- 
sive: ' We made him.'' It's the business of the 27 francs again. And why 
didn't they 'make' the others, then, since the means were the same? 

If I in this connection, without departing from the truth, were to write 
a short letter for publication, I could make them look ridiculous before all 
Europe. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 257 

It's better to have done with it — both with the 27 francs 50 centesimi 
and with the kind of inquisition that has been practised for sixteen years. 1 

I have, so to speak, withdrawn from Busseto. If my annoyance increases 
I shall withdraw from Sant' Agata, and I shan't be the one that will cut 
the worst figure. 

Confession, communion, days of abstinence, mass, novenas, etc. Can't 
one have then individual liberty, when one lives honestly in one's own 
house without offending against the laws or morality? 

Observations on how much one buys at Busseto, at Cremona, etc., on 
how much one eats. . . . 

Our opinions are at the antipodes. I am Liberal to the utmost degree, 
without being a Red. I respect the liberty of others and I demand respect 
for my own. The town is anything but Liberal. It makes a show of being 
so, perhaps out of fear, but is of clerical tendencies. 

Not all the persons mentioned can be identified. La Landriani was 
the school-teacher. In the previous May, Verdi had written, probably 
to Carrara, about her case: 'La Landriani, whom I did not know, 
has been here. According to what I was told, nothing could be more 
unworthy and odious than the scene that occurred between her, the 
superintendent and the school director. I have seen the letter of this 
last, Arfini, and it is unbelievable that an educated man, a priest, 
could exaggerate in that way. It's the letter of a Jesuit and an 
inquisitor! It's a letter that deserves to be presented to the minister, 
so that he may know in what hands is public instruction! ' 

'Giovanni B.' was certainly Giovannino Barezzi. He mistakenly 
believed that as Verdi's brother-in-law he was in a position to smooth 
over all the difficulties about the new theatre at Busseto, and wrote 
suggesting that he and the mayor should call at Sant' Agata. This is 
the answer he got : 

Why should Corbellini come to see me? And why with you? What is 
your position? Why the slight to the commission, with whom he was at 
Sant' Agata? Why the slight to Angiolo Carrara and to the municipal 
authorities? And if you wish the gossip to end, begin by talking less 
yourself. For the rest, since they dared to tell me officially that I had 
promised, so I believe it is necessary for the truth to be officially admitted 
— that is, that I have never, never promised. I know sufficiently well the 
system of many people, who in private, in the taverns and cafes, say one 
thing, and in public say another. 

I don't know why you meddle in this business, not being a member of 
the municipal council or the commission. Is it perhaps in the capacity of a 
friend? In truth, you can't say you've been one on this occasion! As for 
being averse to gossiping, you, who ought to be the one not to do so, were 
the first to shout things utterly false and unseemly at all the street corners. 
Doesn't it seem to all of you that it's time to leave me in peace? 

Giovannino wrote again and Verdi, instead of replying, passed his 

1 i.e. from 1849, when Verdi had brought Giuseppina to live with him at Busseto, 



258 THE MAN VERDI 

letter on to Angiolo Carrara, with an accompanying note ending: 
'Send for Barezzi and tell him to spare me his proposed visit.' There 
are four drafts for this short note in Giuseppina's letter-book. On 
1st August Verdi wrote again to his brother-in-law. The draft of this 
letter is almost illegible owing to innumerable erasures, alterations 
and additions in the hands of both Verdi and Giuseppina. This can 
be made out : 

I did not think fit to reply to your last letter, out of consideration due 
to Signori Angiolo and Leopoldo Carrara. Today the affair is about to 
end, the disputes are settled, and I take up my pen again to reply once and 
for all to your last letters. 

And first of all, where did you, who call yourself my old friend, find the 
nerve to go about the piazzas, the cafes and the taverns, crying out against 
this your old friend, cursing and speaking ill of him? 

How could you disapprove his actions, without knowing them, and 
condemn him, without defence? 

Do you know that even between enemies, when they are honest, accusa- 
tions are made, but discussions take place before acquittal or condem- 
nation!!? And you, my old friend, have behaved worse than an honest 
enemy! You adjudged me in the right in your letters, and you cried 
out against me in the piazzas. 

What follows is a version of the letter published, without the re- 
cipient's name, in the appendix to the Copialettere (pp. 436-7). 1 He 
returns to the subject of the words 'We made him', which he had 
overheard during his last visit to Busseto, eight or ten days before; he 
discusses again the question of the pension he had received in his 
youth from the Monte di Pieta; now, through Dr Angiolo Carrara, he 
has put forward conciliatory suggestions: 'Whatever the result, it's 
a matter I never wish to speak of again. This letter is a reply to yours ; 
it's not worth answering. But if you do decide to write to me again, 
since you won't be able to say anything new, or anything to which I 
haven't replied in anticipation, don't be surprised if I conserve the 
profoundest silence. I ask only one thing of you : quiet and, if you like, 
oblivion. 9 

Exit Giovannino, devoted companion of former days, veteran of 
the wars of the 'Coccardini' and 'Codini'. 

After making the municipal authorities eat their words, Verdi, 
through Dr Carrara, conceded that the theatre should be called by 
his name. He refused to accept, as a gift, the box in the theatre 
offered him; instead, although he never intended to use it, he would 
pay them 10,000 francs for it. 

The last of this miserable episode is heard in Giuseppina's private 
comment in her letter-book : 

1 Part of this letter has been quoted in another chapter (p. 12). 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 259 

To the minor and modest composer Coppola, the people of Catania, 
as a token of their joy over his return to his country after fifteen years, are 
having a gold medal coined, valued at 1,227 francs. 

To Giuseppe Verdi, who has filled the world with his glory, the Bussetani 
make recompense by poisoning his life by every sort of vile action, and 
reminding him at every word, at every step, of the wretched sum (which 
they could not refuse him, because it was an old endowment) of 1,200 
francs ! ! By infinite abuse, lies, violent acts, they exacerbate him, annoy 
him and, so to speak, oblige him to make an end, once and for all, of these 
daily goadings, and throw in their faces the conspicuous sum of 10,000 
francs ! ! ! 

So be it ! Thus will be paid off that so-called benefaction, one hundred per 
cent, materially! And a thousandfold in the glory that shines on that 
filthy and unworthy town ! 

She ends with a touch of characteristic melancholy poetry : 

Alas! at every hour the tree of illusions loses its leaves. ... I, poor 
woman, have almost reached the point of desiring the repose of the 
majority and the shades of death, so as not to see any more the work of 
men. . . . My beautiful peacock, that stands watching me, tells me that the 
animals are the best of living beings. That 's what my poor Loulou always 
told me, with his big eyes full of affection and fidelity. Poor Loulou ! 

During this summer Verdi was at his most unapproachable. The 
editor of La Scena, who had sent one of his publications and, 
apparently, a request for an interview for his paper, got this flung 
back at him on 10th September: 

It would be a good thing to add to the booklet, which I herewith return, 
the following appendix: 'One must leave in peace persons whom one 
doesn't know, who live in retirement and neither ask for nor desire 
biographies, articles or anything else written in their praise.' 

More politely, the same thing was said to Filippo Filippi, music critic 
of La Perseveranza, on 26th September : 

If you honour me with your visit, your talents as biographer will find 
little satisfaction in narrating the marvels of Sant' Agata. Four walls in 
which to take refuge from the sun and inclement weather, amid the vast- 
ness of the fields ; a few dozen trees planted in large part by my own hands ; 
a dirty pool which I shall honour with the pompous title of lake when I 
can get the water to fill it. All that without plan, without architectural 
order, not because I don't love architecture, but because I detest dis- 
cordances, and it would be a bad one to set up anything artistic in so 
unpoetical a place. 

This was all drafted by Giuseppina, as the style might have led one to 
guess. In the definitive form of the letter, which is well known, Verdi 
made small alterations, adopting a variant reading already indicated 
by Giuseppina, and omitting the word 'pompous' and the phrase 



260 THE MAN VERDI 

about the vast fields. The latter part of the draft in the letter-book 
shows Verdi and Giuseppina in active collaboration within the same 
sentence. The following passage begins in Verdi's hand : 

I know that you are an enthusiastic and able musician. Alas ! Piave and 
Mariani will have told you that at Sant' Agata [here Giuseppina takes over 
the pen] no one ever plays or speaks of music [here Verdi resumes and 
finishes the sentence] and you run the risk of finding a pianoforte perhaps 
without any strings. 

In the letter as sent the last phrase became: 'you run the risk of 
finding a pianoforte perhaps not only out of tune but without any 
strings'. 

Verdi often made use of Giuseppina as intermediary, knowing that 
a word from her to the right person at the right moment would save 
him much bother and embarrassment, or bring forward the positive 
proposals he desired. Those who had business with him, too, would 
often sound Giuseppina first, to discover whether the moment was 
propitious. The skill and diplomacy she displayed in her position 
between Verdi and the outside world were beyond all praise. Acting 
sometimes in collusion with Verdi, sometimes on her own initiative 
and impulse, she dealt out friendly hints, reminders, words of 
warning. Above all, Verdi's publishers found her an invaluable go- 
between. With his marvellous insight into all the complex financial 
and commercial possibilities in the international sphere of his own 
operas, there were always some things in which he held that Ricordis 
had done less than they might have done in his and their interests. 
From time to time a storm would blow up. Then Giuseppina' s help 
would be sought by the publishers, and freely given, in so far as she 
could do so without disloyalty. She is seen in her role of intermediary 
in two letters to Giulio Ricordi of October 1865, though it is not 
clear what the particular point at issue was. On the 17th she wrote: 

I have received your kind letter and in making it my duty to reply 
immediately I profit by the ungrateful privilege of age to speak frankly and 
without preamble. 

Be assured, Signor Giulio, that no one made it his deplorable office to 
turn white into black. If there is some cloud in the mind of Verdi, it 
derives from the atmosphere prevailing for a long time, too heavily charged 
with heterogeneous elements; it derives from circumstances and facts of 
which you cannot be ignorant and which are not ignored at Sanf Agata, 
since, after all, this hovel is not outside the bounds of the known world! 

From your letter I learn {not without surprise) that you know of the 
chance conversation between your father and me. I say ' chance conversa- 
tion' because, passing hurriedly through Milan and believing you all on 
the Lake, I was very far from expecting a visit from Signor Tito. But since 
you know the substance of that conversation, you ought also to know 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 261 

that what I said was on my own impulse and in no way by Verdi's agree- 
ment or authorization. It 's not that those words of mine did not express 
Verdi's ideas, but he did not know (nor could it have been otherwise) that 
I would be seeing your father, and he still does not know of that chance 
conversation. If he did, I am sure that with that little laugh of his that I 
know so well he would say coldly: 'You were wrong to speak about it 
because you have done something useless,' and would go back to the 
garden to plant cabbages. 

However, I can assure you, dear Signor Giulio, that if you will honour 
us with a visit you will be welcome. Verdi could perhaps receive a stranger 
coldly; he will always receive an old acquaintance in a friendly and cordial 
manner. 

Giulio and his father came to Sant' Agata and afterwards, on the 
31st, Giuseppina wrote again: 

Verdi is in the garden all the time he is not sleeping or eating. He has 
already made the necessary arrangements for the little island in the pond 
to take another shape. Today the plants arrive from Bordin and if by 
mischance the moon shines tonight we shall have, until God knows when, 
to put as many of them as possible in their places, seeing that tomorrow is 
a holiday, when it'll be impossible to get any work done. Verdi speaks 
with great respect of your father's botanical and agrarian talents. Both of 
them will probably end up as gardeners, for the greater glory of the art of 
music, and so be it! 

From the very few words exchanged at the last moment on the business 
en question, you will have been able (with your acumen and good sense) 
to perceive how much logic and justice there is in the cause producing that 
kind of cloud, which disturbed the serenity of the long-standing relations 
between my husband and your House. 

On this occasion, clearly, little was conceded. One has the impression 
that it was not to discuss plants and gardening that they came to Sant' 
Agata. All the Ricordis were astute, and none more so than Giulio, 
but they needed to get up very early in the morning to get the better 
of Verdi. 

Towards the end of November the long stay in the country came 
to an end; the winter months were spent again in Paris, where 
negotiations with the Opera resulted in the signing of the contract 
for Don Carlos. 

A good friend of Giuseppina's was Don Giovanni Avanzi, parish 
priest of Vidalenzo and canon of the collegiate church of Busseto, 
who was respected by Verdi, too, for his learning and his liberal 
tendencies, rare in country priests of that time. Giuseppina wrote to 
him: 

You will say: 'Twenty-seven days in Paris, and you haven't found 
twenty-seven minutes to write to the poor Canon?' Ah, Signor Canon, I 
have spent these twenty-seven days ... in the midst of tribulations. The 



262 THE MAN VERDI 

house in which and from which I write is the third we have lived in: the 
cook who will prepare our dinner tomorrow is the fourth to enter our 
house in these few days. Verdi, most happy about all these difficulties, all 
these tribulations, that I have to surmount and conquer, strokes his 
whiskers, and waits for me to ask him in grace to return to an hotel. 

But she was determined not to do so, and they settled at length in 
the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, No. 67. The contrast between life 
at Sant' Agata and life in Paris was extreme, and Giuseppina, perhaps 
to her surprise, found that the advantages were not wholly on the 
one side. 

Here everything proceeds feverishly, at a furious pace. The mass of the 
population work, talk, dance, run to the theatres, to festivities, to outings 
— today, tomorrow, in summer, in winter, always, always ! ! At Busseto 
and similar places they hardly vegetate; in Paris they devour fife. Who is 
right? Neither of them, I think. (I live amid the giddy whirl without taking 
part in it, just watching this life of convulsions.) In those towns where 
activity is minimal and everything reduces itself to a material, and grossly 
material, existence, every aspiration to higher things, to progress towards 
ideal perfection, is buried in the task of digestion and the need of sleep. 
In the great cities, like this Paris, the artery and heart of modern civiliza- 
tion, life is synonymous with frenetic activity, with desire to possess, to 
enjoy. Glory, power, luxury, pleasure . . . and, above all, money ! Money ! 

And all too often it was transmuted into a golden key opening all the 
doors leading to Armida's garden. 

Drafting a letter for Verdi on 1 1th February, however, to the bari- 
tone Filippo Coletti, born at Anagni, but living in Rome, Giuseppina 
found at the bottom of her inkpot a drop of gall : 

Your letter, received the other day, was very welcome. It was proof that 
you have not forgotten an old friend. What happens to you at Anagni 
doesn't surprise me: all small towns are retrograde, dirty, hypocritical, 
impossible ! You fled from Anagni and I avoid as much as possible entering 
Busseto, because like you I am pointed out in the streets as an atheist, a 
proud man, etc., etc. You and I are honest men — that is one of our offences. 
The other is more serious : our fault is to have made our fortunes by our 
talents. We are persons, therefore, a little distinct from the generality. What 
a crime in the eyes of the spiritless sheep ! We should perhaps have found 
some indulgence if our backbones were more elastic, for the making of 
bows, but dignified politeness sets these pretentious insects of the small 
towns in a fury. May the light of progress purify the corrupt atmosphere 
of those parasitical and ill-behaved populations! Amen! 

Good news had arrived that Giuseppe Piroli, a close friend of Verdi's 
though born at Busseto, had been elected deputy in his place. Another 
friend in the town was Cesare Finzi, to whom Giuseppina wrote on 
23rd February: l 

1 Nozze Liscia-Formiggini (Spezia, 1901). 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 263 

You will be justifiably surprised that I haven't yet replied to your kind 
and sensible letters, but in Paris, if man proposes, time disposes. That is my 
case and although I don't run around, like the Parisians, to balls and 
festivities, yet, living in this restless atmosphere, one is drawn, willy-nilly, 
to right and to left, with much strain on body and spirit, much waste of 
time, and little or no satisfaction. 

I am glad to hear that Signor Antonio is well, and is keeping himself 
amused. I propose, on return to Sant' Agata, not only to make him repeat, 
twenty times over, all he has said and done at Parma, but to make him 
draw in chalk all he has seen in the ex-capital; I'm quite sure no previous 
description has ever been given with greater exactitude or at greater length. 

I won't mention politics, because I cannot cry 'Hallelujah' about our 
affairs, as I should like to do and would be able to do if the personalities 
and parties concerned weren't so mean, violent, egoistic and cruel towards 
this mother country of ours, this ancient land of heroes, of poets, of 
scientists . . . and let's add, to our shame, this ancient land all too cele- 
brated for its civil wars ! 

I can't tell you what pleasure Piroli's nomination has given me. First 
because Piroli is neither retrograde nor headstrong, but follows the straight 
road that every citizen and representative should follow, so that the 
Italians may become a strong, united and powerful nation. Then I love 
Piroli as a fine, courteous, sincere, well-informed man, and all that without 
that oppressive arrogance of the pedants, which I detest as much as and 
more than my own sins. 

Dantan, as you will perhaps have seen from the newspapers, has done 
a bust of Verdi and, out of regard for the eminent sculptor and making an 
exception to our usual habits, we gave a kind of soiree at which Verdi, the 
sculptor and the bust were acclaimed with loud hurrahs by the friends 
assembled for the occasion. 

I hear with pleasure that my father-in-law is not too much tormented 
by bis disabilities. Greet him warmly from us, along with Filomena and 
all the family. 

Verdi and I beg you to salute for us Pesci and the few friends we have. 
We both send our kindest regards and I in particular greet you as 

your servant and friend 

Giuseppina Verdi. 

Towards the end of March 1866, after a few days at Genoa, she 
found herself back at Sant' Agata, and quietly happy to be there, 
amid the first flowers, the singing birds and sunshine of an early 
spring. The watchdog Black had made them welcome. 'The poor 
thing is getting old, like his master and mistress,' she told Arrivabene. 
'If you had seen him on our return from Paris, you would have been 
moved. I thought he would fall dead in convulsions of joy at seeing 
us again. I don't know whether a monkey is a degenerate man, but 
certainly man, where the heart is concerned, is far from being a 
perfected dog.' Additions to the menagerie were contemplated. Verdi 
dissuaded her from having another pet dog, since the loss of Loulou 



264 THE MAN VERDI 

had nearly broken her heart. But a parrot was sent by Mariani from 
Genoa. 'The parrot is here in my room, in the warming sun, after 
having eaten some polenta, from among the various things offered. 
It seems really to have a gentle disposition, for it gives its claw, it 
comes on my shoulders, and it gave me, too, in its way, a few kisses, 
a proof of sympathy that I accepted with much prudence, not un- 
accompanied by some apprehension.' The arrival of a monkey was 
expected, but it died prematurely. 

Just how good a friend Giuseppina could be is seen in a letter of 
12th April to Corticelli, who had got into difficulties and tried, 
unsuccessfully, to obtain an advance or borrow money from his 
associates : 

I perfectly understand your position and, knowing you so well, I know 
how much it must weigh upon you. What you tell me about the request 
made to those gentry, and the reply you got from them, distresses me but 
doesn't surprise me. I don't know whether there is any truth in spiritual- 
ism, magnetism, somnambulism; what I do know is that, to my fortune 
or misfortune, I see through people as though they were made of crystal, 
and I've seen enough of those people of yours to anatomize them morally 
better than you who have been together with them for so many years. 
Take them as they are, and, by honesty and prudence, try to put your 
affairs in order, so as not to let yourself be caught unawares. You were 
very wrong, in your moment of need, not to send me word. I don't need 
very much for my toilette and (especially of late) the liberality of my pro- 
tecting angel is sufficiently great to permit me some small savings. I should 
have sent you at once that little hoard of mine, no one would have known 
anything about it, and you would have spared yourself disillusionment 
over those gentry, which must have been very bitter for you. I hope you 
never find yourself in such a tight place again, but, in any case, as far as the 
modest purse of your old friend will reach, draw upon it freely. 

She had learned a good deal from CorticeHi about Adelaide Ristori, 
already past her prime, but unable to accept the idea of retirement. 
The actress is referred to in these letters as ' the Invalid ' (VAmmalata) ; 
her disease was a craving for applause: 

As for your Invalid's intention of making an end in 1867, 1 don't believe 
in it at all! Avarice, vanity and the exigencies of her disease will cause her 
to wander to all the corners of the earth, until the boredom and disgust of 
those who will have, so to speak, to suffer her, will force her to bring down 
the curtain. But then she will be, I 'm afraid, and I shall regret it, unhappy 
— most unhappy! 

There are several other passages on this subject. The prediction was 
accurate enough : for another twenty years la Ristori was to wander 
round the world. 

Meanwhile Verdi was working at Sant' Agata on Don Carlos, 
plagued as usual when composing by chronic throat trouble. By early 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 265 

May he had reached the beginning of the fourth act, but political 
developments were distracting him from his work. Italy had recently 
concluded an alliance with Prussia, and was preparing herself for a 
renewal of the struggle with Austria. Verdi's attitude before hostilities 
commenced was positively bellicose: 'War is inevitable. Things 
have reached such a stage that even if the whole world didn't want 
it, we should want it. The mass of the people can't be held back any 
more — that is no longer even in the power of the king — and, come 
what may, war must be waged.' As the young men of Busseto were 
called up, mothers and wives wept, the farmers complained of the 
loss of their labourers, but things went better than he had expected. 
'As for the priests,' he told Piroli, 'their attitude is decent enough. 
They daren't show themselves hostile. It is certain, however, that if 
they saw the tip of the nose of a German they would go to meet him, 
with monstrance, censer and sacrament.' If war came, Sant' Agata 
would be in the front line, and it would be necessary to leave. 'It's 
certain that I should become a target, not so much for the Germans 
as for the priests.' War did come, and the windows of Sant' Agata 
were shaken by the gunfire. Reports in the London Musical Standard 
and elsewhere that Prince Umberto had made Verdi's house his 
headquarters were untrue. The Italian army advanced and met with 
disaster at Custoza on 24th June; the Prussian victory at Sadowa nine 
days later more than redressed the balance, and put Italy on the 
winning side, but she was humiliated. Venetia was ceded by Austria 
to Napoleon III, who after a plebiscite was later to pass it on to 
Vittorio Emanuele. 

On 5th July Verdi and Giuseppina had moved to Genoa to the 
Albergo Croce di Malta, whence Giuseppina on 13th July wrote to 
Corticelli: 

Verdi is in a black mood, and I am too. . . . No Italian of any feeling 
could be, at this moment, tranquil and gay, especially those who are 
obliged to go to the Capital of the Braggarts. . . . Don't tell anyone that 
I've written that perhaps we shall go to Paris, because, with Verdi in this 
mood, I shouldn't be surprised if he sent to the devil the Opera, Perrin, 
Paris and everything else, and returned to Sant' Agata. 

The next day Verdi asked to be released from his contract. But his 
request was refused; it was necessary to go to Paris. There is a curious 
letter to Escudier, dated 18th July, asking him to go personally to see 
Madame Baratte, owner of the house in the Avenue des Champs- 
filysees, Verdi's lease of which had not yet expired, and insist that the 
carpets should be thoroughly beaten before his arrival, dust having 
fatal effects on his throat. The last act of Don Carlos was written 
partly in this house in Paris and partly at Cauterets, a watering-place 
in the Pyrenees. From there Giuseppina wrote on 20th August to 



266 THE MAN VERDI 

Corticelli, who was about to leave, not altogether happily, for an 
eight months' tour of the United States with Adelaide Ristori and 
companions. She assured him that the gates of Sant' Agata would 
always be open for him and asked him to bring back from America 
'a beautiful cockatoo or a macaw — whatever you like, as long as it's 
a beautiful creature', to add to her collection. On 22nd September, 
from Paris, she wrote to Antonio Barezzi: 'We are back from 
Cauterets. I am well, Verdi is well, Paris is well, and would be better 
still if the cholera would wholly depart; I know that you are well, 
Maddalena is well, my father-in-law is well, Filomena, the household 
servants and Signor Polly Parrot are well, and God grant that all of 
us may stay well at least until the year 2866! What do you say, 
Signor Antonio? Another thousand years or so wouldn't be bad, 
eh?' This letter is an example of a kind of word-spinning at which she 
was expert; there was nothing much to say, but she knew the dear old 
man was always thinking of them, and longed to hear from them; in a 
cloud of light banter and gossip she conveyed all her affection. 
Barezzi's own surviving letters to Verdi and Giuseppina are without 
literary value; some of them are in the hand of his second wife and 
ex-servant, Maddalena, who could not spell; they reveal only his 
goodness, his great simplicity and his boundless love. 

Many letters of this year to Giuseppe De Amicis and, in particular, 
to Mariani, concern the choice and the furnishing of an apartment 
they had decided to take for the winter months at Genoa. This was 
in the Palazzo Sauli, on the hill of Carignano. A letter to the previous 
tenant, named Muller or Miiller, is addressed to 100 Albany St, 
Regent's Park, London. Part of Muller's furniture was being taken 
over, together with 662 bottles of wines and liqueurs, and the letter, 
in September, complains that Verdi's friends had found that there 
were actually less than 600 bottles left. The gran salone, the reception- 
room, dining-room, and Verdi's and Giuseppina's bedrooms were to 
be furnished anew; also the billiard-room, Verdi refusing to have 
Muller's billiard-table at any price. Some of the new furniture was 
bought in Paris. While Verdi was scoring and rehearsing Don Carlos 
Giuseppina was almost equally busy, shopping, packing things up, 
dispatching them to Mariani at Genoa, and corresponding with 
everybody concerned. All this, and the bustle and noise of the French 
capital, tired her out. On 15th November she told Canon Avanzi: 
'I want Verdi to finish this Don Carlos quickly, so that we can return 
to Italy. I have need to vegetate, or rather, to live in silence and quiet 
for a while. In this Paris life is just a violent, rapid, exhausting fever 
that bears one panting towards the grave. ... I am tired without 
working, I have time neither to read nor think, in the city they say is 
the most intellectual in the world. I cannot stand this unbridled 
movement of men and things any longer. I have reached the point 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 267 

almost of feeling benefit and relief when I see a funeral pass. In death 
is calm and repose! Blessed are the dead, in the kiss of God!' To 
Corticelli she wrote: 'It doesn't surprise me that charlatanism and 
imposture are greater in America than in France, since the Barnums 
were born, or were invented, in America. Only the French are the 
charlatans par excellence of Europe, though one must agree that 
they have much wit and, I would dare to say, good nature in their 
charlatanism. Perhaps they will perfect themselves by the example 
of the Americans, but for the present they are slightly less dishonest.' 
Another letter of 7th December says : 

Verdi, with his opera, cannot give a thought to anything that might 
distract him. You know that we have settled on an apartment at Genoa, 
and that this apartment has to be furnished and decorated . . . and all that 
with the least possible expense, because money doesn't rain on us from the 
sky as it does on you people. So I have had, and still have, to run to right 
and left, and, God willing, in eight or ten days everything will be packed 
up and I shall be able to breathe a little. Add that, through I don't know 
what aberration, we have begun to give a little dinner-party every week! 
. . . Don Carlos, God and the Tortoises of the Opera willing, will perhaps 
be put on at the end of January. What a punishment for the sins of a 
composer is the staging of an opera in that theatre, with its machinery of 
marble and lead ! Just think ! I am burning with impatience to go to Genoa 
and put in order and enjoy the apartment, and at the Opera they argue for 
twenty-four hours before deciding whether Faure or la Sasse is to raise a 
finger or the whole hand. 

One joy at this time was to see Muzio again, who had returned after 
several years in the United States, where he had married a young 
singer, Lucy Simons. After he went to Italy in December Giuseppina 
wrote him an affectionate letter: 'Your departure from Paris has left 
a great void in the restricted circle of our friends. Seeing you every 
day again, after so many years' absence, had rejuvenated us and 
carried us back to the time when you often lived with us and were 
like a relation, or rather, better than the general run of relations, an 
intimate and most dear friend. Perhaps it would have been better if 
you hadn't returned to Europe. We were resigned to separation; now, 
when you go back to America (where you must return, if you have 
faith in the advice of your old friends), we shall seem to lose you a 
second time.' She told him he would find Signor Antonio, Giovan- 
nino, Carlo Verdi and the rest quite unchanged at Busseto. To 
Corticelli she remarked : ' I don't know whether Emanuele has done 
well to marry a woman so young. There must be at least twenty-five 
years' difference between them.' And, in another letter: 'I am fond of 
Emanuele, but I'm afraid that he is still, and will remain for a long 
time yet, a boy, as far as knowledge of the world is concerned.' 
Bad news arrived in January of the sudden death of Carlo Verdi at 



268 THE MAN VERDI 

Busseto ; he was buried, in accordance with his last wishes, beside his 
wife Luigia in the little churchyard at Vidalenzo. Verdi being absorbed 
in the preparation of his opera, Giuseppina took on practically the 
whole correspondence necessary in consequence of this bereavement. 
Besides letters to Angiolo Carrara about funeral and family arrange- 
ments, she wrote to almost all Verdi's friends for him, to Barezzi, 
Muzio, Piave, De Sanctis, Mariani, Morchio and others. To Corticelli 
she wrote: 

Your letters are always welcome, but at this moment of great sorrow 
they are a drop of dew on an afflicted heart. Verdi's father, an octogenarian 
and ill for four years, ceased to suffer and rendered his soul to God in the 
night of the 14th of this month! Although his age and illness made us 
foresee that his end was near, yet his decline and death were so rapid as to 
augment, if that is possible, the sorrow of this loss. Verdi is extremely 
grieved and I, in spite of the fact that I have lived very little with him, and 
that we were at the antipodes in our ways of thinking, feel the keenest 
regret — perhaps as keen as that of Verdi. Poor old man! God have mercy 
on him, and bless him, with us, in all eternity! 

All the letters she wrote on this occasion are different, deeply felt, in 
no way conventional. A passage in one to Angiolo Carrara says: 'I 
thought little Filomena had gone back to her mother during those 
days of anguish, but I hear that you have kindly taken her into your 
house. Verdi and I sincerely thank you.' Filomena, already mentioned 
in letters to Barezzi and Finzi, was Verdi's second cousin, a girl of 
seven, who for some time had lived with Carlo Verdi at Busseto. Her 
parents, poor peasants with a large family, lived at Le Roncole. 
Verdi and Giuseppina took a great interest in her, had arranged for 
her to have lessons from the school-teacher, Signora Landriani, and 
were a little later to take her into their own home and practically to 
adopt her. After adoption she was called Maria. In Angiolo Carrara's 
house, where she found shelter after Carlo Verdi's death, she was 
afterwards to find a husband. 

The production of Don Carlos was deferred from the end of January 
to the end of February, and then to 11th March. 'You can well 
imagine', Giuseppina wrote to Corticelli, 'that the next day the 
trunks will be ready for our return to Italy. I have never so much 
wanted to return to the peasants as this time! . . . Don't misunder- 
stand me: to the peasants, not to Busseto.' And the day after the first 
performance they did leave. 'It was not a success,' said Verdi. On 
14th March they arrived at Genoa, and took possession of their new 
home in the Palazzo Sauli, where a very busy time began for Giusep- 
pina. She wrote to Giulio Ricordi on 29th March: 'It's very difficult 
to give a sign of life when one has been almost buried for eight days 
amid the dust and the rags that encumber every corner of this 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 269 

enormous apartment. Add — and it isn't a small thing — that there are 
bricklayers, paper hangers, carpenters, painters, etc., etc., and I am 
alone here to direct and to fight with this cohort of blunderers, since 
Verdi has thought well to stay out of it and plant cabbages in the 
Athens of Italy, which is to say, in the neighbourhood of Busseto.' 

A most affecting episode took place in May 1867. Giuseppina, still 
occupied with furnishing problems, went from Sant' Agata to Milan, 
alone. There, without forewarning, she summoned up her courage 
and called to see Clarina Maffei, introducing herself by sending in 
Verdi's portrait. The visit was an enormous success ; Giuseppina and 
Clarina, laughing and weeping, fell into each other's arms. Clarina 
then had the wonderful idea of taking Giuseppina to see Manzoni, 
her 'Saint', idolized also by Verdi, who had yet always hesitated to 
approach him in person. 

The draft of Giuseppina' s first letter to Clarina Maffei, written at 
Locate on 17th May, is found on a loose sheet of paper inserted in her 
letter-book : 

How wrong I was to be so nervous about my daring venture, presenting 
myself before you with only my little portrait to introduce me ! I ought not 
only to have hoped, but to have been sure that you would have thrown 
your arms round my neck, as you did, and confused in your angel's heart 
your old friendship for Verdi with the new one with which you have 
honoured poor Peppina. When, however, here in the quiet of this room, 
I think of all I did the other day, I hardly recognize myself and almost 
break into a cold sweat of embarrassment ! But throwing a glance at the 
precious things spread on my table, which I owe to you, my embarrassment 
vanishes and — in spite of my rotundity — I jump for joy, and kiss your 
little note and the violet and the ivy-leaf. ... At sight, however, of the 
portrait of Manzoni tears come into my eyes ; I jump no more, but there is 
such consolation in this feeling of respectful tenderness that no festival in 
the world could compare with it. To have seen him, to have spoken to 
him and touched the hands of that Saint, is an occurrence and a memory 
that will remain indelible in my mind and heart all the days of my life. 
This honour I owe to you, excellent creature, not on my own merits, but 
because you love my Verdi with unalterable friendly sentiments, and 
because, I being his wife, doing for me something so welcome, so longed- 
for, you knew you were doing it still, and at the same time, for Verdi 
himself. . . . Verdi has always spoken to me about you as of his dearest 
friend, and the most worthy of being that, so although we saw each other 
for the first time only the other day, we have nevertheless loved each other 
for a long time. 

Then came the joy of breaking the news to Verdi on her return 
home. The story is told in a second delightful letter to Clarina, the 
draft of which, in the letter-book, is dated 21st May: 

The exertions and emotions of recent days raised my temperature to 



270 THE MAN VERDI 

boiling point, and I arrived home with a magnificent headache, which, if 
it prevented me from writing yesterday, yet allowed me to give Verdi an 
account of all that happened at Milan. He was waiting for me at Alseno 
station, with little Filomena, and as soon as we were in the carriage he 
asked about my family and what I had done at Milan regarding the 
furniture. I said that I had been all over the place without finding anything 
I wanted, that I had seen the Ricordis and Piave and his charmers, and 
that, although pressed for time, I should have called on you if he had given 
me a letter for you, in spite of a certain reluctance owing to the embonpoint 
which for three years now has excluded me from sentimental women's 
gatherings. While he, laughing, bestowed on me the flattering epithet 
' Capricciosa ' (given only to young women, and for a long time I have not 
been that), I very quietly extracted your little note from my handbag, 
threw it on his knee, and procured for myself, as soon as he had glanced 
at it, the sight of a big row of teeth, including wisdom teeth! 

I told him then very quickly, at breakneck speed, how you had received 
me, how (an extraordinary thing for you) you had gone out with me, how 
foolish I had been to wait so many years before making your acquaintance ; 
and he kept on saying: 'It doesn't surprise me; it doesn't surprise me; I 
know Clarina.' 

Wishing to push on as fast as possible, I said with affected indifference : 
'If you go to Milan I'll introduce you to Manzoni. He expects you, and 
I was there with her the other day.' 

Phew! The bombshell was so great and so unexpected that I didn't 
know whether I ought to open the carriage windows to give him air, or 
close them, fearing that in the paroxysm of surprise and joy he would 
jump out ! He went red, he turned deadly pale, he perspired ; he took off his 
hat and screwed it up in a way that reduced it almost to shapelessness. 
Furthermore (this is between ourselves) the most severe and savage Bear 
of Busseto had his eyes full of tears, and both of us, moved, convulsed, sat 
there for ten minutes in complete silence. Oh, the power of genius, of 
virtue and of friendship ! Thank you, my good Clarina, at once in Verdi's 
name and my own. Since Sunday, in this solitude, your name and that of 
our Saint are repeated at every moment, and with what accompaniment of 
praises and affectionate words I leave you to imagine. 

Now Verdi is thinking of writing to Manzoni, and I laugh, because if 
I was so overcome, confused and foolish when you procured me that great 
honour of finding myself in his presence, it pleases me that those, too, who 
are much more than I am, feel also a bit of embarrassment, pull their 
whiskers and scratch their ears to find words worthy of saying to the 
mighty. 

The more I think of it, the more I marvel, not at my gross foolishness, 
but at the incredible, and yet sincere and profound modesty . . . of whom? 
— of him who wrote the greatest book of modern times ! 

Like all the best letter-writers, Giuseppina reveals to each of her 
different correspondents a different aspect of her personality. In 
writing to Clarina Maffei she employs for her sprightly narratives a 
more studied, literary vein, born of an immense desire to please and 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 271 

the consciousness of her new friend's intellectual background. This 
letter from Genoa, of 14th June 1867, 1 is justly celebrated: 

I have been wishing that my teeth, the carpenters, the paperhangers and 
all my present tyrants would leave me one day's breathing-space, in order 
to have the pleasure of writing to my friends in peace. It is seven o'clock 
in the morning; Verdi left yesterday for Sant' Agata, and I am writing all 
alone in a large hall with a view of the sea — that sea which I adore, and 
which gazes at me (the deceiver!) calmly and smilingly, like a happy bride 
the day after her wedding. 

The bride and you, my dear Clarina, are able to be happy, because you 
don't know the unpoetic fever of removals and of furnishing a house. As 
for myself, I have been so often afflicted with these calamities that I ask 
myself sometimes whether I really once belonged, more or less worthily, 
to the company of singers in or out of tune, or whether I did not rather 
serve a long apprenticeship in Righini's or another upholsterer's shop. 
For the rest, Verdi, circumstances and I myself have been the cause of the 
setting up of these many different homes, and thus of my present troubles. 

Many years ago (I dare not say how many), since I loved the country 
so much, I asked Verdi, with some insistence, to leave Paris, to go and 
enjoy, under the canopy of the open sky, those salutary baths of fresh air 
and sunshine which bring strength to the body and tranquillity to the 
mind. Verdi, who, like Auber, had almost a horror of country life, con- 
sented after much persuasion to take a little house a short distance from 
Paris. The pleasures of this new way of life were a revelation to Verdi. He 
came to love it so much, so passionately, that I found myself surpassed, 
and my prayers only too well answered, in this cult of the woodland gods. 
He bought the estate of Sant' Agata, and I, who had already furnished a 
house at Milan and another in Paris, had to organize a pied-a-terre in the 
new possessions of the illustrious professor of Le Roncole. We began with 
infinite pleasure to plant a garden, which in the beginning was called 
'Peppina's Garden'. Then it was enlarged and became his garden, and I 
can tell you that in this garden of his he now reigns like a czar, so that I am 
reduced to a few feet of ground in which, by agreement between us, he has 
no right to poke his nose. I could not conscientiously affirm that he always 
respects this agreement, but I have found a means of calling him to order 
by threatening to plant cabbages instead of flowers. This garden, which 
was progressively enlarged and made more beautiful, called for a rather 
less rustic dwelling. So Verdi turned architect, and I can't tell you how, 
during the rebuilding, the beds, the wardrobes and all the furniture danced 
from room to room. Suffice it to say that, except for the kitchen, the cellar 
and the stables, we have slept and eaten our meals in every corner of the 
house. When the fate of Italy was in the balance and Verdi, with those 
other gentlemen, took to King Vittorio the results of the plebiscites in the 
different States, Guerrieri, Fioruzzi, etc. came to Sant' Agata and had the 
honour of dining in a kind of ante-room or passage-way, in the presence 
of families of swallows, which flew calmly in and out through a grating, 
bringing food to their young. When God willed, the house was finished, 

1 Drafted in the letter-book on 13th June. 



272 THE MAN VERDI 

and I assure you that Verdi directed the works well, and perhaps better 
than a real architect. And that was the fourth home I had to furnish. 

But the sun, the trees, the flowers and the vast and varied family of 
the birds, which make country life so lively and beautiful for a great part 
of the year, leave it sad, mute and bare in the winter. Then I love it no 
longer. When the snow covers these vast plains, and the trees with their 
bare branches look like desolate skeletons, I can't bear to raise my eyes 
and look out. I cover the windows with flowered curtains, up to eye-level, 
and I feel an infinite sadness, a desire to flee from the country, and to feel 
that I live among the living, and not among the spectres and the silence of 
a vast cemetery. Verdi, an iron nature, would perhaps have loved the 
country even in winter and known how to create for himself pleasure and 
occupations adapted to the season, but he had, in his goodness, compassion 
on my isolation and my sadness, and, after many hesitations over the 
choice of locality, we have pitched our winter tents facing the sea and the 
mountains, and now I am engaged in furnishing the fifth and certainly the 
last home of my life. 

But this correspondence, so happily begun, takes on, too soon, a 
sorrowful note: 

24th June, in the letter-book, copied and sent on 25th June : 

The ivy leaf that you send me, and the lock from that venerable head 
. . . would have greatly moved me at any time, but now, in our present 
affliction, have really made me cry. Verdi's old father-in-law, whom I love, 
and by whom I am loved like a daughter, is in grave danger of his life. Ill 
for a long time, his condition in the last two days has got suddenly much 
worse, and we see, to our infinite sorrow, that honest face become more 
pale and cadaverous every minute. We see those eyes, almost moribund, 
fixed upon us with affection so profound that it rends our hearts. Thank 
your Saint for the good and the honour he does us, in remembering us. 
He, whose faith is sincere and absolute — let him pray God to have mercy 
on this poor old man and leave him longer with us, who love him so much. 

6th July: 

We thank you again, with particular warmth, for your sympathy in our 
sorrow. Poor Signor Antonio is in a pitiful state, and for every few hours 
of relief has many in which his life is in gravest danger. The other day they 
called us at midnight ; we left in all haste for Busseto and we found him so 
much worse that certain most zealous relations thought well to have a 
priest in readiness ! Towards two in the morning the fever abated and the 
poor old man recovered a little. Today (Saturday) has been tolerable. This 
morning Verdi and I went to play the upholsterer, adjusting a certain 
green blind so that air can circulate in the room without the light dis- 
turbing him. If only you could see the affection with which he gazes at 
us ! . . . how he clasps our hands when we are about to leave, as if he 
wanted to keep us near him by main force, the tears would come into your 
eyes, even without knowing him! Poor old man! Oh, if God would leave 
him with us for a few years more, what a consolation it would be, for 
Verdi and for me ! But at eighty, there is little hope ! 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 273 

22nd July: 

He is dead — dead in our arms! Farewell, beloved old man; our sorrow, 
our benedictions, our affection, will follow you beyond the tomb. The 
memory of your goodness, and of all you did for Verdi, will be forgotten 
only when we, in our turn, close our eyes. His last word, his last glance, 
was for Verdi, for his poor wife and for me. I can say no more, for I 
haven't the strength. Weep with us and pray for the peace of the soul of 
this man we loved so much. 

Verdi presses your hands, and I press you to my heart. Farewell. 
Farewell. 

Corticelli was now back in Italy, tired of travelling, and without 
employment. He was offered the position of bailiff at Sant' Agata, 
and accepted gratefully. This was in October 1867. A loose draft of 
Giuseppina's letter to him, conveying the offer, survives. She told him 
that if he found the isolation and monotony of country life too much 
for him, he had only to say: 'My friends, I have need to return to a 
more lively and varied life.' He would be at liberty at once, without 
any sort of reproach. 

This year, which had seen the deaths of Carlo Verdi and Antonio 
Barezzi, was not to end without a further catastrophe. In December, 
Piave had a severe stroke which left him paralysed, deprived of speech 
and reason. Clarina Maffei urged that Verdi should come to Milan; 
others advised that it would be pointless and terribly distressing for 
him. Giuseppina wrote to Ricordi on 10th December: 

I have just received your letter, which expresses exactly what we thought 
and still think. Verdi understood that, as you so well put it, Signora Clarina 
let herself be carried away by an access of feeling. Let us settle things, 
then, with regard to this journey, which, in the present circumstances, 
would be of no benefit to the sufferer, and would be most painful for 
Verdi. If ever poor Piave, recovering awareness, should show in some way 
a desire to see Verdi and, in the opinion of the doctors, this visit could 
have no harmful consequences for the sick man, you will have the kind- 
ness, Signor Giulio, to send a telegram to Verdi, who will come for a 
moment to Milan. Otherwise it would mean causing painful commotion 
to one with no benefit to the other. Verdi has shown, and will show, to 
Piave and his unfortunate family, what he feels — in a way more efficacious 
than that of a useless visit, which could even be fatal. 

Piave was to linger on, in a helpless state, for more than eight years, 
sometimes in hospital, sometimes in his home. Correspondence with 
his wife Elisa appears in Giuseppina's letter-books, concerned with 
his welfare and that of his young daughter. A letter of 11th April 
1868 includes this passage: 

I shall say nothing of our surprise at the offers of Sig. Giovanni Barezzi. 
Only I think it my duty to advise you that it would not be possible for us 
to pay our respects and thank him in your name, since for a long time now 



274 THE MAN VERDI 

we have had nothing further to do with that gentleman. As for sending 
Didina for some months to Busseto, to stay with that family, you would 
be doing something that would certainly be very displeasing to Verdi. 

Giovannino Barezzi's offer of hospitality to Piave's daughter does 
him much credit. He had known the librettist well, ever since he had 
gone to Venice in 1844 for the first performance of Ernani. But this 
letter shows how implacable was Verdi's resentment against his 
brother-in-law. 

It is pleasant to return to the relations with Clarina Maffei. It must 
be remembered that Verdi had not seen her for twenty years. Giusep- 
pina, without a word to him, arranged for Clarina to pay a surprise 
visit to Sant' Agata towards the end of May. 'He received me like a 
sister,' the countess told a friend. 'He knew me at once, but he didn't 
believe his eyes. He gazed at me in astonishment; then he blurted 
out exclamations and embraced me. . . . The house is elegant and 
most comfortable, the garden vast and beautiful; we shall carry back 
to Milan whole forests of flowers. This morning Verdi talked to me 
about rose-trees, of which I send you a leaf for a souvenir. Today we 
are going to Busseto, and then to visit the house where he was born.' x 
She stayed a week; they talked of the past, and Verdi promised to go 
to Milan and to meet Manzoni. After Clarina left, Giuseppina wrote : 

I go from time to time, as is my custom, to visit the rooms upstairs. I 
go into the room that you occupied and I ask myself: 'Is it true? Was 
Clarina at Sant' Agata? In this bed?' Yes, that good, that excellent 
creature was here to visit and bless the old and new friends that her heart 
has joined in a single, most holy embrace. . . . Thank you, Clarina, for this 
appearance of yours, which has warmed my heart. You arrived amid 
flowers and left amid flowers, almost like a visionary being! And the 
sadness, the silence, that your departure has left in this house, is not 
without life and delight! The mind is at rest, thinking of you, who made 
(in our century!) of friendship your temple, your god and all your joys! 
Bless you ! Verdi will write to you. It is still his firm intention to take a trip 
to Milan and on the Lake. So he'll come before Manzoni leaves for the 
country. It is fitting that that Saint should clasp the hand of my Verdi, 
who is worthy of his benevolence. 

The visit to Manzoni took place on 30th June; Verdi was deeply 
moved. It was strange for him to be at Milan again, after so many 
years. He noticed how the city had grown, admired the new Galleria, 
and felt again the ties that bound him to the scene of his first successes. 
The decision once taken to adopt little Filomena (Maria), there 
were inquiries about schools at Piacenza, Genoa and Turin. In the 
latter part of this year, too, Giuseppina's mother and sister were 
moved from Locate to Cremona, in easier reach of Sant' Agata. In 

1 Barbiera, // salotto della Contessa Maffei, pp. 279-80. 




Gaetano Donizetti 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 275 

the letter-books are lists of all the expenses of the furnishing of the 
house at Cremona, with indications of the respective contributions of 
Verdi and Giuseppina. 

There is a flash of wit in a letter to Leon Escudier's wife, on 6th 
January 1869: 

I thank you most warmly for your kind and affectionate letter. I won't 
hide from you the fact that I needed two pairs of spectacles to decipher 
your English handwriting, in the form of the wavy line indicating a trill 
+*>++++**>++. When you write to me again, dear Laure, kindly make 
use of Chinese handwriting. That will always be easier to read than this 
trill. 

Apart from that, there is little gaiety in the letters of this period. 

Giuseppina was capable of the most intense attachments — to 
people, to places, to pet animals — and hence suffered correspondingly 
intensely at partings, deaths and disillusionment. Verdi was armoured 
against such things, but she was not. The melancholy silence that 
sometimes descended on Sant' Agata had been enlivened by the 
presence of Maria Verdi, as we must now call her. Giuseppina's love 
for this child was almost more than maternal. But Verdi had decreed, 
with his usual strong common sense, that Maria should go away to 
the chosen boarding-school at Turin, the Istituto della Regia Opera 
della Prowidenza. After the gates of this institution closed behind 
Maria, Verdi went to Milan, to rehearse the revised version of La 
forza del destino at La Scala, while Giuseppina returned alone to 
Genoa. She told Canon Avanzi: 'I shouldn't have the courage to do 
it over again, and at the moment I 'm not at all sure whether I shall 
have the courage to persist in the determination taken to separate 
from her for so long. I have suffered so much! I weep every time I 
think of her and I seem to see that open, smiling face in every corner 
of the house. But she's not there. The school is imposing; it seems to 
have the greater part of what is necessary to produce pupils well 
brought up and seriously instructed . . . but . . . but it seems to me 
that I, too, should have been able to bring her up well and have her 
very well taught.' She refused at first to come to Milan, until Verdi 
went back and fetched her. Afterwards, again at Genoa, she drafted 
another long letter to Clarina Maffei in a vein both sad and sweet: 

Arrived at a certain age, the most agreeable and the most sorrowful 
things, those that are longed for and those that are feared, pass, fly away 
with vertiginous rapidity. Verdi was at Milan, after so many years' absence 
and such great desire on the part of his friends to see him again! He 
returned to that box at La Scala, witness of his first successes, of his 
struggles, of his first artistic experiences — those that are the frontispiece of 
the book of life for a man of genius ! He saw you again every evening, he 
embraced Carcano, Tenca and other old friends of the 1840's, returning for 

K 



276 THE MAN VERDI 

a moment to the years of his youth, to the customs and memories of that 
time. ... It has all passed, and we have come back to calm, to silence, 
almost to solitude. Verdi has gone, for a few days, to talk to his trees and 
flowers at Sant' Agata. I have stayed at Genoa; I don't go out, I am rather 
neglecting the house, I am reading a lot, and thinking a great deal. 

In meditation there is something severe and melancholy which is yet 
not deprived of delight ! As I get older I incline very much to this disposi- 
tion of mind. I pass in review men and things : in this kind of mental 
phantasmagoria I see a world by turns laughing, weeping, moved, enraged, 
and so I go on, abandoning myself to the interminable chain of emotions 
that different sad or smiling thoughts arouse in me. 

It seems to me that the beginning of this letter has nothing to do with 
what I wished to write, which is, first of all, that I want to thank you again 
for the affectionate friendship of which you gave me fresh proof during 
the few days I spent at Milan. Seeing you every day, knowing you to be 
so good, so indulgent and sincere with everybody, including myself who 
have so much need of that, was a real consolation ! You are one of my 
saints, in the world of my mental apparitions. And with the thought of you 
in my heart I evoke, as in a dear and mysterious world, the few people in 
my life who have sincerely loved me, and before whom I have been able to 
burn, without subsequent regret, the incense of affection, esteem and 
veneration ! 

I have sent our visiting-cards to Manzoni. God grant we may be able to 
send them for many years yet, on that blessed day! When one knows 
Manzoni one would like to begin life all over again, to make oneself 
worthy of his esteem and friendship ! 

As you can see, I have nothing to tell you of my own life, passed as it 
is these years almost wholly within domestic walls, whence however one 
can see the mountains and the sea — this eternal marvel among the marvels 
of creation. 

Excuse me, dear Clarina. 

This letter of 9th March allows much of her recurrent depression 
to be read between the lines. There were excellent reports of Maria's 
progress at school. But Giuseppina had plenty of other worries. At 
Cremona her mother was behaving like a madwoman, and it was 
thought she would have to be put into an asylum. Barberina was 
constantly ill; in a recent letter she had expressed a wish, almost, to 
die: 'I thank you for the sacrifices you make for me, who never get 
better, nor does the Lord take me to His bosom.' 

Giuseppina was sending money from time to time to Barberina and 
her mother at Cremona, to her aunt Giovannina at Lodi, to Livia 
Zanobini at Florence and probably also to Elisa Piave at Milan. A 
note in her letter-book on 4th April records that she wrote to one 
Filippo Pagliai, with the comment: 'N.B. Not sent this time any 
money.' Pagliai was Livia Zanobini's brother-in-law; he is mentioned 
several times in Verdi's letters to Piroli, who was asked to find for 
him a minor post in a government office. Giuseppina had noticed 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 277 

that he only wrote when he thought there was a possibility of getting 
some money from her, and complained to Livia : ' If you really wanted 
to know more about my health, there are 365 days in the year and 
you could have chosen one that wasn't always precisely Christmas or 
Easter. That was a kind of importunity, or demand, which has ended 
by offending me. What I can or wish to do, whatever the person con- 
cerned and the circumstances, I want to do spontaneously, without 
it being imposed on me by anybody whatsoever.' Payments continued, 
however, for many years after this. 

Verdi had two plans for helping the Piave family. Didina being 
now of school age, he settled 10,000 lire on her, the interest to pay 
for her education, the capital to become her dot. He also went to 
great trouble to arrange for the publication of an album of songs by 
himself, Mercadante, Federico Ricci, Antonio Cagnoni, Auber and 
Ambroise Thomas, to be sold for Piave's benefit. Mercadante's 
contribution was brought to Sant' Agata by Cesare De Sanctis in this 
year; it was dedicated to Giuseppina. Her letter of acknowledgment 
of 5th July 1869 survives in a loose copy. 

There was a misadventure at Sant' Agata to relate to Clarina on 
18th July: 

God be thanked, it's over now: and that being the case it's unnecessary 
for me to try to give you a palpitatingly tragic description of it, but all the 
same you may know that the dirty pool, the infamous dirty pool, very nearly 
became our tomb. . . . Verdi was in the boat and held out his hand to help 
me into it. I got one foot in, but in setting down the other the boat cap- 
sized and down we both went to the bottom of the lake — really to the 
bottom ! Verdi, thanks be to God, to chance or to his presence of mind, 
feeling the boat lightly touch his head, was able, raising his arm, to thrust 
away that sort of coffin-lid. This movement, I don't know how, helped 
him to get on his feet, and in that position, with incredible promptitude 
and vigour, helped by Corticelli, he was able to pull me out of the water, 
where I was unable to move, caught by my dreadfully distended silk 
clothing, and also almost unconscious of my situation and thus making no 
attempt to save myself. I'll say nothing of the alarm, the desperation, of 
my poor sister, who ran off crying 'Help ! ' or of the fright of all who saw 
us at that terrible moment. I myself hadn't, so to speak, time to get 
frightened, because losing my balance and finding myself with two fathoms 
of water over my head occurred in a flash. I was about to faint when, 
opening my eyes, I found myself supported by the arm of Verdi, who stood 
upright on his feet with the water up to his throat, and I thought he must 
have jumped in on purpose to save me. It was only later that I learned how 
things happened, and then I was seized with terror, thinking of Verdi and 
the consequences that unhappy, involuntary bathe could have had for him 
and for art. I don't matter, being nothing to the world . . . but let's think 
no more about it. . . . My sister, my mother . . . Blessed Jesus and Mary, 
how many misfortunes if. . . ! 



278 THE MAN VERDI 

Tell Giulio what happened, as I don't want to have to repeat it over and 
over again, but for the love of God save us from the newspapers and their 
lying exaggerations. 

Verdi took the incident much more calmly : ' It would certainly have 
been better if the affair of the lake had not occurred, but there could 
be no danger. It was impossible for me, reaching the bottom, not to 
get on my feet, and once on my feet, even with the water up to my 
throat, all was saved.' 

A letter to Draneht Bey in Cairo, drafted in French by Giuseppina 
for Verdi on 10th August, shows that he was first approached, in the 
negotiations that led finally to the composition ofAida, for a 'hymn' 
and not for an opera, to be performed at the inauguration of the 
theatre built in celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal. 

The last two volumes of Giuseppina' s letter-books are essential 
for the study of the domestic crisis which overshadowed much of 
the latter part of her life. But the general interest of the volumes 
diminishes. Verdi had now resumed his own Copialettere and made 
fewer calls upon her in her secretarial capacity. And as she grew older 
a good deal of the sparkle went out of her writing. 

There are complaints about the servants and advice to Corticelli 
on how to deal with them. There is news of Canon Avanzi and his 
numerous ailments, of Maddalena Barezzi, Signor Antonio's widow, 
with whom conversation was exhausted in ten minutes, and of poor 
Barberina: 'She lives to take a few steps in the garden.' There is 
correspondence with Lucy Muzio in Italian and in now very halting 
English: 'When I shall send word to you in French or in Italian you 
must think : " She has no time to turn over her dictionary." ' There 
are letters to Verdi's cousin Carlo Uttini, founder of the first kinder- 
garten in Italy, at Piacenza. 

Giulio Ricordi sent some of his piano pieces, published under the 
pseudonym 'J. Burgmein', and Giuseppina had to confess that they 
were too difficult for her : ' Once upon a time I knew my do, re, mi, fa, 
but now it is only when everybody has gone out for a long walk that 
I dare, with great respect, ask the pianoforte if it will allow me to 
touch it!' A little earlier she had told Ricordi that owing to the 
persistent laziness of her left hand she had given up all idea of making 
her debut in a Chopin concerto at Milan: 'Alas! one must resign 
oneself little by little to renouncing everything — the world, the flesh, 
the devil, and playing with the left hand!' 

In January 1870 Giuseppina's mother died at Cremona. 

The unheroic final attainment of Italian unity in 1870, by the 
absorption of the Patrimony of St Peter after the withdrawal of the 
French garrison from Rome, gave Verdi little pleasure, 'It's a great 
thing,' he wrote to Clarina Maffei, 'but it leaves me cold. Perhaps 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 279 

because I feel it could be the cause of trouble, both at home and 
abroad. For I cannot reconcile Parliament and the College of 
Cardinals, freedom of the press and inquisition, the Civil Code and 
the Syllabus. . . . Perhaps tomorrow there will come a shrewd and 
clever Pope, such as Rome has had so many times before, and he will 
ruin us. Pope and King of Italy — I can't see them together even on the 
paper of this letter.' The Franco-Prussian war and its aftermath 
greatly grieved and concerned him and Giuseppina. 'It is true that the 
blague, the impertinence and presumption of the French were, and 
are, in spite of all their miseries, insupportable. But, after all, it was 
France that gave liberty and civilization to the modern world. And 
if she falls, let us be under no illusion, all our liberties and civilization 
will collapse.' Verdi foresaw the wrath to come: 

Our literary men and politicians praise the knowledge, the science and 
even (God forgive them!) the arts of these conquerors. But if they examined 
them less superficially they would see that there still runs in their veins the 
ancient Gothic blood, that they are immeasurably proud, hard and 
intolerant, despisers of everything that is not German, and of limitless 
rapacity. Men with heads but no hearts ; a strong but uncivilized race. And 
that king who is always talking of God and Providence, and with the help 
of these is destroying the best part of Europe ! He thinks he is destined to 
reform the conduct and punish the vices of the modern world ! ! ! A fine 
sort of missionary ! Attila of old (another missionary of the same sort) 
drew back before the majesty of the capital of the ancient world ; but this 
one is about to bombard the capital of the modern world. ... I should 
have liked a more generous line of politics, and the payment of a debt of 
gratitude. A hundred thousand of our men could perhaps have saved 
France. In any case, I should have preferred to sign peace, after defeat 
beside the French, to this inertia that will make us despised one day. We 
shan't avoid a European war, and we shall be devoured. Not tomorrow — 
but it will come! 

Giuseppina had spent, off and on, about seven years of her life in 
France. Her letters to her French friends, after the fall of Paris, are 
highly charged with emotion. She added this note to a letter from 
Verdi to Camille Du Locle on 14th February 1871 : 

Paris, this great Paris, that you call le Grand Cadavre — I love it and am 
proud of loving it. You are, morally, more glorious than you have ever 
been ! I have only one desire — to come and kneel down and kiss the dust 
of that great country, where my friends have suffered so much! You know 
me, and know that I tell the truth, and that my words are sincere. 

Correspondence of exceptional interest took place in 1872 between 
Giuseppina and Cesare Vigna, the alienist, at Venice, to whom, 
twenty years earlier, Ricordi had dedicated La Traviata. Vigna, on 
2nd May, sent to Sant' Agata a pamphlet he had written, with the 
intention of confuting Verdi's opinion that it was impossible for a 



280 THE MAN VERDI 

doctor to be a spiritualist: 'I am one, nor am I ashamed of being one, 
because he will see, if God gives him the patience to read me, that 
science is not wholly on the side of the adversaries, as the positivists 
of today make out.' Giuseppina's letter in reply, of 9th May, is well 
known, having been published by Luzio together with his selection 
of the letters to Clarina Maffei : 

Verdi esteems you too much not to believe your words and to number 
you, although you are a doctor, among the spiritualists. But, between 
ourselves, he presents the strangest phenomenon in the world. He is not 
a doctor, but an artist. Everyone agrees that there fell to his lot the divine 
gift of genius ; he is a shining example of honesty ; he understands and feels 
every delicate and elevated sentiment. And yet this brigand permits himself 
to be, I won't say an atheist, but certainly very little of a believer, and that 
with an obstinacy and calm that make one want to beat him. I exhaust 
myself in speaking to him of the marvels of the heavens, the earth, the sea, 
etc., etc. It's a waste of breath! He laughs in my face and freezes me in the 
midst of my oratorical periods, my divine enthusiasm, by saying: ' You're 
all mad,' and unfortunately he says it in good faith. 

Attempts have been made to pervert the clear meaning of this passage, 
by those who, at all costs and in the face of all the evidence to the 
contrary, wish to represent Verdi as a Christian and a Catholic. They 
tell us that the exclamation 'You're all mad' does not refer to the 
substance of Giuseppina's discourse, but to her poetical manner of 
talking. 1 The passage, however, which they are careful not to quote 
in its entirety, simply will not bear this interpretation. Furthermore, 
the draft in the letter-book shows a crucial variant. There it reads: 
' this brigand permits himself to be an atheist with an obstinacy and 
calm that make one want to beat him'. She chose subsequently the 
less drastic form, but first she wrote 'atheist'. 

It has been universally assumed that Giuseppina herself was a 
devout Catholic all her life. The evidence of the letter-books, sur- 
prisingly, does not support this idea. 

She suggested to Vigna that, if they could meet, he would be a 
powerful ally in such discussions with Verdi about religion. Vigna at 
first took up the suggestion with enthusiasm. He replied on 12th 
May: 

Anyone who can write a letter like your last one can be something more 
than a simple intermediary in the most vital question I would wish to 
pursue in Verdi's company. 

While he, without knowing it, is much stronger than I, even in argument 
on such a subject, if we, reciprocally helping each other, should succeed in 

1 Lorenzo Alpino, Verdi umorista (Milan-Rome, 1935), p. 7; Don Ferruccio Botti, 
Verdi e la religione (Parma, 1940), p. 6. 

Mercede Mundula, op. cit., p. 309, and Marcel More, 'La foudre de Dieu' (Dieu 
vivant, No. 26, 1954), consider that Giuseppina misunderstood Verdi here. 



GIUSEPPINA AT HER WRITING-DESK 281 

lessening that painful emptiness, that cruel scepticism which at times 
poisons the purest joys, the noblest satisfactions, the most sublime 
aspirations of life, might I not consider myself fortunate in being the 
occasion and instrument of such an achievement? Let him by all means 
represent the adversary's role — nothing better, it 's the more difficult one. 
There could come about the case of the philosopher who had never been 
able to demonstrate God's existence, but became a fervent believer when 
he studied for all he was worth to disprove it. . . . 

You're all mad! Verdi has said it to you more than once. But I, who 
must at least know more about madmen than he, could add hat often in 
delirio Veritas and that sometimes even madmen are to be listened to. 

Luzio, who published these extracts from Vigna's letters, 1 deduces 
from them that he decided in the end not to confront Verdi in open 
argument, but to leave the hoped-for conversion to providence and 
the action of time. 

Subsequent entries in Giuseppina's letter-books, passed over in 
silence by Luzio, are of vital importance. The following is from a 
letter of 29th May: 

I believe in God, the first, unknown, unique, omnipotent source of all 
creation. I feel within me that spark, that atom, emanation of the Divine 
Spirit, which gives fife and movement to the universe and which we call 
the soul. Thought, conscience, the heart — mysterious powers that move 
me, approve of me, condemn me — are superior things and will survive my 
body, destined to die. Death ! ! The science, the sophisms, the metaphysical 
subtleties of the theologians and the learned of all the religions of all the 
ages, strike vainly against this mystery of death, as against that of life, and 
have nothing to say, just as they have never been able to say, believing it 
and proving it: God does not exist /Even the sceptical Rabelais in his last 
moments exclaimed : Je vais querir le Grand Peut-etre. So he had laughed 
all his life, to die with doubt in his heart. Other sceptics, or sophists, lie 
even as they die, saying, out of pride and not conviction: There is no 
God!!! Religions — my dear Vigna, don't be alarmed; I am favouring you 
with my ideas, my convictions about religions. If you have managed to 
read me up to this point I admire your patience and indulgence for my 
boldness. 

This passage, on the right-hand side of a divided page, seems to be 
a collection of notes in preparation for the proposed debate, rather 
than the draft of a letter : 

'Who knoweth whether the spirit of the beasts goeth upward or down- 
ward ? ' Admirable and respectful confession for a wise man like Solomon ! 
At any rate he confesses his ignorance concerning the Great Mystery of 
death and the future. 

I have a certain attachment — almost childish, I should say — for the 

1 Carteggi verdiani, IV, pp, 285-7. 



282 THE MAN VERDI 

religion in which I was born ; going back, however, to the Gospel of Christ. 
I would not change, because I dislike apostasy in religion, in politics, in 
everything else. Conviction alone can justify certain changes, which too 
often have their origin in the passions or in material interests. 

I believe that the religions are the work of cunning or superior men, 
who, to dominate their fellows or to do them good, have profited by their 
weakness, by terror, by misfortunes, etc. After all, we have need to invoke 
a Supreme Being, and man tends always to materialize it, to give it sensible 
form. And this form and the theocratic laws according to the climates, the 
needs and the nature of the men who receive these laws. Hence a priest- 
hood originally convinced, exalted; then corrupt, cunning, venal. 

Coming from Giuseppina, these are astonishing remarks. From Verdi 
they would be less surprising, but they are certainly not his. The past 
participle 'born', in the second paragraph, has the feminine ending 
inatd). 

Another letter to Vigna, on 25th June, says : 

I believe that on the subject of religions, although in perfect agreement 
about everything concerning the divine person of J.C., there would be a 
kind of bifurcation in our opinions regarding the observance of rites before 
the face of God. 

On 3rd September, to Clarina Maffei, Giuseppina wrote : 

Verdi is busy with his grotto and his garden. He is very well and in the 
best of spirits. Happy man! and may God keep him happy for many long 
years to come! There are some virtuous natures that need to believe in 
God; others, equally perfect, that are happy not believing in anything, and 
simply observing rigorously every precept of strict morality. Manzoni and 
Verdi ! These two men give me cause for thought — are for me a true subject 
for meditation. But my imperfections and ignorance render me incapable 
of solving the obscure problem they present. 

It seems utterly beyond dispute that at this time Verdi was an unre- 
pentant atheist, and that Giuseppina herself, although deeply 
religious, in the sense that she believed in a God, a Supreme Being, 
was yet very far indeed from being an orthodox Catholic. 

The letter-books have documents of the highest importance to 
contribute to the study of another controversial subject, to which we 
must now turn our attention — the relations of Verdi with Angelo 
Mariani and Teresa Stolz. 



CHAPTER 



The Breach with Mariani 



T 

JLw< 



.wo schools of thought exist in Italy today among those who 
write about Verdi. On the one hand are the followers of Gatti, with 
whom it is axiomatic that Verdi had a love affair with the singer 
Teresa Stolz, and that this was the root cause of the breach between 
the composer and his friend Mariani; on the other hand are the 
followers of Luzio, to whom this idea is anathema. Parti pris informs 
the writings, and deforms the arguments, of both schools; an objec- 
tive examination of all the evidence is totally lacking. 

In the early 1870's, just before and just after Mariani's death, 
rumours were circulating about Verdi's relations with Teresa Stolz; 
echoes of these rumours are to be found in contemporary letters. An 
outrageous account of their supposed relations was actually printed 
in 1875, running as a serial in the Rivista Indipendente of Florence 
from 4th September to 9th November. This will concern us later. 

After Verdi's death, the earliest direct reference to these matters is 
found in Franco Ridella's 'Giuseppe Verdi: Impressioni e ricordi', 
published in the periodical Per VArte of Parma for February and 
March 1902. Ridella's reminiscences were reprinted separately in 
booklet form in 1928; the fact that they were actually written much 
earlier and published in a periodical only a year after Verdi's death, 
and before biographical controversy had begun, gives them consider- 
able importance. Here is what Ridella has to say about the breach 
between Verdi and Mariani, in the version published in Per VArte: 

Alas! This beautiful friendship was to be dissolved, or rather broken 
off. Various versions of the cause of this rupture were current. Some spoke 
of a celebrated singer, still living, who had dazzled them both and given 
the palm of victory in the end to the more eminent contestant. True ; but 
the dispute did not begin there. According to others, Mariani had promised 
*K 283 



284 THE MAN VERDI 

his friend to conduct Aida at Cairo, and then, having leagued himself with 
the publishing house of Lucca, Ricordi's rivals, as is known, and in 
consequence hostile to Verdi, had broken his promise, for the honour of 
conducting Wagner's Lohengrin for the first time in Italy, at the Teatro 
Comunale at Bologna. This report is, in part, inexact, and I believe I can 
tell the truth about this matter. Verdi, although he had the greatest esteem 
for his friend's ability as conductor, could not approve of certain sides of 
his character, had already accused him more than once of capriciousness, 
and for some time had been a bit cool towards him. One day in the spring 
of 1871 the two friends were dining as usual at the Ristorante della 
Concordia, in Via Nuova (today Via Garibaldi), at Genoa. During the 
meal they were seen to be conversing animatedly. On leaving, Verdi was 
heard to say to Mariani : ' Anyone who breaks his word is not a man, but 
a boy.' They separated, and never saw each other again. Mariani, giving 
vent to his feelings afterwards with a friend of mine, complained that 
Verdi would not believe in his illness, which really did not permit him to 
undertake the hardships of a trip to Africa. Nor was the poor fellow 
telling anything less than the truth, for although he did go to Bologna to 
conduct Lohengrin he bore within him a cancerous growth which two years 
later was to bring him to the grave. He died on 13th June 1873, in the arms 
of a cultured and rich Genoese aristocrat who was desperately in love 
with him. 

The 'celebrated singer, still living', was clearly Teresa Stolz, and 
Ridella more than implies that it was true that Verdi, like Mariani, 
fell in love with her. The 'cultured and rich Genoese aristocrat', in 
whose arms Mariani died, is generally identified as the Marchesa 
Teresa Sauli Pallavicino. 

The altercation in the Ristorante della Concordia had already been 
reported in print by Ferdinando Resasco, in his Verdi a Genova 
(Genoa, 1901), without reference to any rivalry in love. Resasco only 
says that rumour had it that Mariani, drawn into Lucca's orbit, had 
broken his promise to go to Cairo for Aida, and then put on Lohengrin 
at Bologna. 

In 1907 Giuseppe Lisio, discussing Lucca's correspondence, 1 
referred again to Teresa Stolz, without actually naming her, although 
she was by this time dead. He wrote of ' Angelo Mariani, the famous 
conductor, whose mistress (they say) Verdi carried off, ruining his 
life, and it was on this account (they say) that he set up Wagner in 
Italy in opposition to Verdi'. 

The next witness is Gino Monaldi (1847-1932), author of a long 
series of volumes of musical small talk, in which the same anecdotes 
recur, though often in slightly different forms. After hinting in various 
earlier publications that he could reveal the real cause of the quarrel 
between Verdi and Mariani, he stated in Le prime rappresentazioni 
celebri (Milan, 1910) : 'Today, after forty years, it is useless to disturb 

1 'Su l'epistolario di Casa Lucca', loc. cit. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 285 

the ashes of a fire that is spent, and cause the dead to speak when 
they do not wish to be disturbed. We will say only this : a divergence 
involving the passions, ending in Verdi's victory, was the pernicious 
seed from which germinated in Mariani's heart the desire for ven- 
geance.' Only three years later, in // Maestro della Rivoluzione 
Italiana (Milan, 1913), Monaldi brought himself to say much more: 

More than once, treating of Verdi, his life and his works, I have wanted 
to strike this unknown chord, to open the mysterious gate whence issued 
that painful disagreement, but I was restrained from doing so by regard 
due to people then still living. Today, however, when the tomb has closed 
for ever over the protagonists of that love drama, history claims her rights, 
and I obey. 

Resasco is correct in indicating 1870 x as the date of the breach between 
Verdi and Mariani. The beginning of the conflict, however, goes back to 
1868. At that time, and precisely in the month of June, Mariani was at 
Pesaro, where he had been called to conduct the wonderful Rossini 
Commemoration, the like of which, perhaps, is not recorded in con- 
temporary history. 

I lived, or rather, I was a guest, like Mariani, in the beautiful house of 
the Carnevali brothers, and our rooms were adjacent. Although young, 
it had been my good fortune to win the benevolence of the great con- 
ductor and to be considered worthy of his confidence. Thus I was witness 
of his jealous outbursts and his secret torments. In those moments of 
abandon and discouragement, violent at times, given Mariani's genuinely 
Romagnolo character, two names often issued together from his lips — 
those of Giuseppe Verdi and Teresa Stolz. Mariani's love for the famous 
singer was one of those loves for which one lives and dies ! 

Monaldi goes on to describe an incident that occurred at one of the 
Rossini Commemoration concerts at Pesaro, conducted by Mariani. 
Many famous instrumentalists had lent their services, including the 
trumpeter Giacomo Brizzi, of Bologna. Tremendous enthusiasm was 
aroused in the Inflammatus section of Rossini's Stabat Mater by the 
combination of Teresa Stolz's high C and a prodigious blast on 
Brizzi's trumpet. Brizzi considered that he should have been invited 
to acknowledge the subsequent applause, along with Mariani and 
the singers, and showed his resentment by not reproducing, on the 
repetition of the piece, the expected apocalyptic trumpet call. After- 
wards Mariani, absolutely beside himself with rage, rushed at Brizzi 
and violently abused him : 

During that ugly scene la Stolz moved neither lip nor eyelid, but 
remained imperturbable. Mariani was dismayed by her demeanour. On 
returning home I found him alone, weeping in his room, exclaiming 
continually between the sobs that choked him : ' That woman doesn't love 
me any more ! And it is he, my friend, my brother, who robs me of her 

1 Resasco actually says, 'after 1870'. 



286 THE MAN VERDI 

love, which was my whole life! Oh, but I shall avenge myself, and my 
vengeance will be much grander and more beautiful than that of the 
cowardly Brizzi! I shall die of it, but I shall avenge myself.' 

And his revenge was Lohengrin at Bologna, that Lohengrin that Mariani 
had never wished to read or to hear, and of which, by a miracle of genius, 
he divined every most subtle and delicate shade and movement, surpassing, 
almost, the intentions and aspirations of the composer, devising and 
obtaining new effects, which have remained traditional ever since. 

Monaldi always gets his dates wrong. He says the incident occurred 
in 1868 'and precisely in the month of June' — before Rossini was 
even dead — whereas we know from documentary sources that the 
Commemoration at Pesaro took place in August 1869. 

After another eight years Monaldi had apparently forgotten that 
he had ever published this story. He decided, in Imiei ricordi musicali 
(Rome, 1921), 'to raise the veil that up till now no one has ever dared 
to raise'. He told the story of Brizzi again and explained: 

Mariani was passionately in love with Teresa Stolz, and his love for her 
had become the law of his life. This he confided to me, with tears in his 
voice, one night during which the impetus and the anguish of jealousy had 
driven him from his bed and brought him to my room, there to seek relief 
and give vent to his feelings. I would not like to say if, or how far, that 
jealousy was well founded; but certainly poor Mariani was cruelly tor- 
mented by his jealous anguish and he had neither doubts nor excuses. He 
could not understand how the infinite blessing of that love could be stolen 
from him by his dearest and most trusted friend. 'It's infamous! ' Mariani 
cried, violently beating his fists on the table, at the risk of wakening all the 
occupants of the house, 'but I will avenge myself! I shall die of sorrow 
over it, but I will avenge myself.' 

We may note in passing that the scene of Mariani's confession has 
changed. In the earlier account he is found alone, weeping in his 
room; in the later one he comes in the night to Monaldi's room. 

In the same year as Monaldi's Imiei ricordi musicali there appeared 
Tancredi Mantovani's Angelo Mariani (Rome, 1921), an excellent 
short book. Mantovani made no bones about mentioning the relation- 
ship between Verdi and Teresa Stolz: 'I think there is nothing 
impermissible and indiscreet in revealing completely what many 
people knew and know.' He dates the beginning of the affair from 
the performance of Don Carlos at Bologna in the autumn of 1867: 
'The Maestro had been present at the last rehearsals of Don Carlos, 
and from then onwards a decided current of sympathy, a reciprocal 
admiration, perfectly understandable, was established between the 
great composer and his magnificent interpreter. Sympathy passed 
from the sphere of art to that of sentiment, and soon became love.' 

Monaldi repeated in Verdi aneddotico (Aquila, 1926) what he had 
first published in // Maestro della Rivoluzione Italiana. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 287 

The first small voice raised in Verdi's defence seems to have been 
that of Lorenzo Alpino, who in his article 'Verdi, Mariani, la Stolz e 
Gemito' {Corner e del Pomeriggio Illustrate, Bologna, 19th-20th 
January 1927) declared that it was absolutely false that the composer 
ever had a love affair with the singer. Alpino's article was based on 
information given by Luisa Cora Mancinelli, widow of Luigi Man- 
cinelli, the conductor, who had lived at Genoa in apartments in 
Palazzo Doria on the floor above those occupied by Verdi. 'Man- 
cinelli's widow denies, curtly and angrily, that there were ever 
relations between Verdi and la Stolz other than those of the purest 
and most disinterested friendship. Verdi was never in love with la 
Stolz and the relations between the celebrated singer and the Verdis 
were always straightforward, loyal, beyond suspicion.' A more 
prosaic reason for the breaking off of relations with Mariani was here 
given: 

Mariani lived at Genoa in the Palazzo Sauli at Carignano, where up to 
1877 x Verdi and la Strepponi also lived. With Mariani was Teresina 
Stolz, to whom the great conductor was engaged to be married, and the 
singer had entrusted him with a considerable sum of money, the proceeds 
of her artistic exertions. They were to have married, and so full and 
absolute confidence reigned. But one unhappy day la Stolz and Mariani 
quarrelled and all idea of marriage vanished. La Stolz, who wished to 
break off relations completely, asked for her money back from Mariani, 
who first grumbled and then refused, on various pretexts. And then la 
Stolz asked Verdi to intervene in the financial dispute. In money matters 
Verdi was very correct and he did everything possible to make Mariani do 
his duty towards la Stolz, but in vain. It seems that Mariani had lost the 
singer's capital in unfortunate speculations. From that time onwards Verdi 
had nothing more to do with Mariani. But love, clearly, did not enter into 
the matter. 

Another of Verdi's friends at Genoa, Giuseppe Perosio, in his 
posthumously published Ricordi verdiani (Pinerolo, 1928), also 
denied that Verdi and Mariani quarrelled over Teresa Stolz. 'Here I 
could disclose the real cause of the breach between the two illustrious 
artists, about which the most erroneous and strange things have been 
said and written, even by publicists usually well informed. But in due 
regard to the memory of the illustrious dead, I don't think I ought to 
discuss the subject; I will only say that the cause of the breach was 
not a question of a lady, nor of a phrase attributed to Mariani when 
he conducted Lohengrin at Bologna.' 

In // Lavoro (Genoa) for 4th September 1929, Alpino, under the 
pseudonym 'C. Belviglieri', again discussed these matters, in an 
article 'Un romanzo amoroso di Giuseppe Verdi?' He referred to 
Perosio's reminiscences, and drew upon the memories of Luisa Cora 

1 This date is incorrect. 



288 THE MAN VERDI 

Mancinelli, repeating the story about Mariani having speculated with 
and lost money entrusted to him by Teresa Stolz when they were 
living together in Palazzo Sauli. This article drew an indignant letter 
from Maria Cortesi Schnitzer, Mariani's niece, published on 11th 
September. 'First of all, it is false, absolutely false, that Mariani 
cohabited with Signora Teresa Stolz; she lived always in the Palazzo 
Corallo, by the bridge of Carignano, in the Canestri family's house. 
Mariani never indulged in speculation; the cause of the breaking off 
of relations between him and Teresa Stolz was quite different. 
Signora Stolz left him because she was jealous of the fact that Mariani 
nourished a strong passion, which was reciprocated, for a lady of the 
Genoese nobility'. 

Thus we return to the Marchesa Teresa Sauli Pallavicino. 

Such were the conflicting reports, and evidence from witnesses of 
varying reliability, available when Carlo Gatti came to write his 
Verdi biography of 1931. It must be remarked that none of the many 
earlier Italian biographers discussed the story of the supposed love 
affair at all, either to confirm or deny it. In spite of what had been 
written by Ridella, Lisio, Monaldi and Mantovani, not a word was 
heard in Verdi's defence until 1927, and then it came from Man- 
cinelli's widow, whose acquaintance with the composer dated only 
from later years, from the Palazzo Doria period. Giuseppina's letter- 
books show that she first wrote to Luisa Cora, as she was then, on 
14th August 1879. Perosio first met Verdi in 1876. In the circum- 
stances it was hardly surprising that Gatti, who knew also the article 
in the Rivista Indipendente of 1875 and the correspondence of Mariani 
with his friend Teodorico Landoni, threw the immense weight of his 
authority into the scale against Verdi. In Gatti's biography there is 
no argument on this subject; it is just taken for granted that Verdi did 
betray his friend and Giuseppina. 

Our own Francis Toye, writing at about the same time as Gatti, 
approached the problem with apparent impartiality: 

Verdi would not have been the first man of fifty-seven to have an 
intrigue with a young and attractive woman. Peppina, a very remarkable 
and broad-minded person, would not have been the first wife to make 
friends with her husband's mistress. Moreover, in the operatic world 
where she had acquired her standards of conduct, the matrimonial tie 
cannot be said to be regarded in quite the same way as in ordinary society. 

But, having seen the article by 'Belviglieri' in IlLavoro, he accepted 
Luisa Cora Mancinelli's explanation, she having been 'in a position 
to know the facts' and the explanation itself being 'more consonant 
with subsequent events as well as with the psychology of everybody 
concerned'. 

From 1931 onwards Alessandro Luzio courteously but persistently 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 289 

attacked Gatti's assumptions and conclusions in this matter of Verdi's 
relations with Teresa Stolz. It is a fault in Gatti that he seldom 
argues, but writes out of assumed omniscience. Luzio, for his part, 
argued readily, and supported his arguments with documents when- 
ever possible. He had wide access, as Gatti had not, to the archives of 
Sant' Agata and was able to contribute material of capital importance, 
such as letters of Mariani and Teresa Stolz to Verdi and extracts from 
Giuseppina's letter-books. The results of Luzio's researches are 
available in the Carteggi verdiani, which include articles originally 
published in the Corner e della Sera and Nuova Antologia. 

Some short extracts from Verdi's and Giuseppina's letters to 
Teresa Stolz were published in the Corriere della Sera for 30th 
October 1932 by Giovanni Cenzato; they included no sensational 
revelations. 

A fierce counter-attack on Luzio's position was made by Umberto 
Zoppi in Mariani, Verdi e la Stolz (Milan, 1947), a book of nearly 
400 pages, based on the correspondence of Mariani and Carlino Del 
Signore. Zoppi showed himself singularly ill-equipped to deal with 
the undoubtedly valuable material that had come into his hands ; his 
commentary is violently prejudiced in Mariani's favour; his argu- 
ments are often fallacious and his knowledge of the Verdi literature 
is evidently superficial; his style verges on the ludicrous. But one can 
admire his courage, and the letters he publishes certainly cannot be 
ignored. 

A new and revised edition of Gatti's biography appeared in 1951. 
As so often in similar cases, the result of the revision was not entirely 
happy. Neither time nor biography stands still. New facts and docu- 
ments are constantly coming to fight which make, every generation 
or so, a new approach necessary. But biographers grow old, and lose 
touch with their subjects. Unable to face the task of beginning again 
and revising, not only their own writings, but their own opinions of 
earlier years, in the light of the latest information, they generally do 
what Gatti did — add a little, here and there, cut a little, and ignore 
what is inconvenient. One can readily admit that the refutation of 
Gatti's presentation of the Verdi-Stolz relationship became almost 
an obsession with Luzio in his old age. Some of the arguments he put 
forward were puerile. But others demand and deserve earnest con- 
sideration. They did not get it from Gatti, who ignored them all, 
together with almost the whole of the Carteggi verdiani, Luzio's own 
great contribution to Verdi literature. 

Franco Abbiati's enormous work of 1959 includes much new 
material concerning Mariani and Verdi, and Verdi and Teresa Stolz. 
Abbiati adheres, decidedly, to the school of Luzio, and yet the final 
impression left by his treatment of this subject is strangely equivocal. 
Some of the documents he publishes raise questions he does not 



290 THE MAN VERDI 

attempt to answer. Faced with a difficult problem, he slips back into 
sentimental fiction. 1 We are left still without an impartial survey of 
this crisis in the relations of Verdi, Giuseppina, Mariani and Teresa 
Stolz. 

In a manuscript autobiography, 2 copies of which are preserved in 
the Biblioteca Classense at Ravenna and the Archiginnasio library at 
Bologna, Angelo Mariani says: 'I was born at Ravenna on 11th 
October 1824.' A note has been added on both copies: 'He was born 
and baptized on 12th October 1821 (thus Dr Romani's certificate of 
24th July 1873)'; the copy at Ravenna has a further correction: 'He 
was born, rather, on 11th October 1821, and baptized on the 12th.' 
Documents concerning Mariani's early musical activities at Sant' 
Agata Feltria and Rimini, dated respectively 24th October 1842 and 
20th September 1843, bear remarks in his own hand: 'I was then 
barely eighteen years of age' and 'I was barely nineteen years of 
age'. 3 He was actually just twenty-one and almost twenty-two years 
old, respectively, on those dates. 

Thus, in almost the first documents to which one turns in sketching 
the life of Mariani, one seems to find already evident two of his 
leading characteristics — vanity and untruthfulness. 

After directing a brass band at Sant' Agata Feltria, and playing the 
viola and violin in orchestras at Macerata and Rimini, he was 
appointed teacher and orchestral conductor to the Philharmonic 
Society of Faenza. When just over twenty he had married Virginia 
Fusconi, a girl from the same district as himself, and they had a 
daughter, who died of consumption at an early age. Matrimonial 
differences came to a head at Faenza, where Mariani, as Zoppi tells 
us, ' ended by surrendering to the flattering smile of a local countess '. 4 
After scenes of jealousy and face-slappings in the theatre, the breach 
became irreparable and Mariani separated from his wife, who did not 
long survive her daughter. When it suited him, Mariani left Faenza 
' almost forgetting, or not caring about, his contractual engagements 
with the Philharmonic Society'. These actions, too, seem entirely 
typical. 

Encouraged by Rossini, he studied composition for a time at 
Bologna, interrupting his studies to direct, as 'maestro concertatore', 
a season of opera at Trento in June 1844. 

1 See, for example, the end of his third volume, where a truly sensational document, 
Giuseppina's draft letter to Verdi, is followed by a mawkish commentary, false from 
beginning to end. 

2 It was written in November 1866, at the request of Giulio Ricordi, and was used 
by Ghislanzoni for a biography of Mariani published in the Gazzetta Musicale di Milano 
in the following year. 

s Umberto Zoppi, 'Documenti sulla giovinezza di Angelo Mariani' {La Scala, 
Nov., 1953). 

4 Mariani, Verdi e la Stolz, pp. 73-4. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 291 

Mantovani, Zoppi and others state that Mariani made his de'but as 
operatic conductor at Messina in the Carnival season of 1844, which 
would normally mean the season commencing 26th December 1843. 
Mariani himself, in his autobiography, says he was engaged at 
Messina for the autumn and Carnival 1844-5. This was the long 
Sicilian season, customary also at Palermo, where at this same time 
Giuseppina Strepponi was singing, from October to the following 
March. Zoppi says Mariani's position was that of 'primo violino 
direttore', conducting with his bow, as was then the practice, from 
the first violin desk. Mariani himself says he was engaged as 'maestro 
concertatore e direttore d'orchestra'. 'But in that season', he goes on, 
'it was not possible for me to give proof of what I could do because 
the musicians of the orchestra protested that they did not want to 
play under a foreign boy.' He conducted concerts, however, for the 
Philharmonic Society of Messina and wrote orchestral and vocal 
music for them, and marches and other pieces for the band of the 
Royal Orphanage. In April 1845 he left Messina, spent a month at 
Naples, where he was encouraged by Mercadante, and then returned 
to Bologna. After a short season at Bagnacavallo he was back at 
Messina in November 1845, again as 'maestro concertatore e 
direttore d'orchestra'. 

But in that year, too, I was able to do little or nothing except write a 
few pieces for the Philharmonic Society and the Royal Orphanage, since 
for the players in the theatre it was still my crime to be & foreigner and a 
boy. I left Messina before the season ended, because I was bored with that 
life, but more because I was becoming a target for the hatred of a high 
government official who, at the instigation of one of my enemies, did 
everything he could to banish me from Messina. 

A later passage of the autobiography says he believes he was the first 
in Italy to abolish the old post of 'maestro concertatore', as distinct 
from the orchestral conductor, which made any unity of conception 
in performance impossible. Perhaps he tried to put his ideas into 
practice at Messina and thus aroused hostility among the players. 

After another month at Naples, he went in May 1846 to Milan, 
where his real career as a star conductor began. 

On 2nd July 1846 Muzio reported to Antonio Barezzi: 'Last night 
/ due Foscari was produced at the Teatro Re. The performance was 
so perfect that it left nothing to be desired. The choruses were very 
much applauded. And from beginning to end of the opera there was 
continuous applause, continual cries of "Viva Verdi!"' This was 
Mariani's Milanese debut, and his first appearance as conductor of 
an opera by Verdi. Two new operas were produced later in the 
month; both were failures, and the performances of / due Foscari 
were resumed. In August Mariani moved from the Teatro Re to the 
Teatro Carcano : 



292 THE MAN VERDI 

In that theatre I was able to show myself to be also a tolerable violinist, 
playing in Verdi's / Lombardi the well-known violin solo, which I had to 
repeat every evening. See p. 276 of the Gazzetta Musicale, Anno V (1846), 
the ' Milanese Weekly Gazette', where the Wrath of God is called down on 
everything except my violin solo. Please note, however, dear Giulio, that 
since I first went to Bologna I had entirely neglected that instrument, and 
if after several years without practice I could still arouse applause, playing 
at the Teatro Carcano, that shows that from boyhood I played the violin 
well. Since then, however, I have given it up entirely. 

This quotation from the autobiography does not support Zoppi's 
views on Mariani's position at Messina and elsewhere, and still less 
does it support the statement of Mario Ferrarini, in a discussion of 
Zoppi's book, 1 that even at the Teatro Carlo Felice at Genoa Mariani 
was only the first violin and leader of the orchestra. However big a 
liar Mariani may have been, he could not have told Ricordi that he 
had given up the violin entirely, many years ago, if his known 
position demanded that he should continue to play it daily. The truth 
seems to be that the old titles of 'primo violino direttore d' orchestra' 
and 'maestro concertatore' were retained in some theatres long after 
the functions had changed to those of principal and assistant con- 
ductor. 

The performances at the Teatro Carcano on which the Gazzetta 
Musicale called down the Wrath of God are also mentioned by Muzio. 
He told Barezzi that Ernani left much to be desired and that he had 
never seen a worse performance of I Lombardi. Apparently the singers 
were inadequate. But the theatre was crowded, and the season 
successful. 

Verdi's interest had already been aroused. Mariani's name occurs 
for the first time in the composer's surviving correspondence in a 
letter to Lanari of 19th August 1846: 'I am vexed and surprised that 
you haven't replied to the letter in which I complained of Mariani's 
pretensions.' 2 This has been interpreted, probably correctly, as 
meaning that Verdi would have liked to have had Mariani as con- 
ductor of the new opera he was engaged to write for Florence 
{Macbeth, as was later decided), but that Mariani, already fully 
conscious of his worth, had asked higher fees than Lanari was 
prepared to pay. 

After engagements at Stradella and Vicenza, Mariani was back at 
the Teatro Carcano, Milan, in the spring of 1847, when he conducted 
Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco and Nabucco, with Ricci's Michelangelo e 
Rolla and a new opera, / Baccanti, by Uranio Fontana. For reasons 
best known to themselves, the Austrian police insisted that / Baccanti 
should be produced on a certain date, before there had been time to 

ll Il romanzo "Mariani, Verdi, Teresina Stolz" e le inesattezze storiche di un bel 
libro' {Aurea Parma, July-Dec. 1947). 
2 Copialettere, p. 25. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 293 

rehearse it properly. A fiasco seemed inevitable, but Antonio Ghislan- 
zoni, who was to sing the baritone role, deliberately absented himself 
from the theatre on the night of the announced first performance. 
Nabucco had to be substituted for / Baccanti at the last moment and 
the audience seized the occasion for a political demonstration. It was 
after this performance of Nabucco that Mariani was rebuked and 
threatened with imprisonment by Count Bolza for having given 
Verdi's music too evidently rebellious expression. Ghislanzoni, who 
himself tells this story, got off with a few days in jail. 

After another season at Vicenza, Mariani left in November 1847 to 
direct a season of Italian opera at the Court Theatre in Copenhagen. 
This was interrupted by the death of King Christian VIII on 20th 
January 1848. Mariani composed a Requiem Mass, and was offered 
a permanent position in Copenhagen as director of the Royal Chapel, 
but he renounced this in order to return to Italy during the revolution 
and war of 1848. 

It remains dubious whether he ever actually did any fighting against 
the Austrians. // Pirata for 26th July 1848 announced that the 
Teatro Re would be reopening soon with a season of opera: 'The 
conductor of the orchestra will be the famous Maestro Angelo 
Mariani.' It looks as though he had found himself a job behind the 
lines with the equivalent of E.N.S.A. But the announcement in // 
Pirata appeared on the day after the Italian defeat at Custoza, and by 
5th August the Austrians were back at Milan. In the autobiography 
he only says : ' I came to Milan, I enrolled as a volunteer, and I have 
never forgotten 5th August 1848, before Porta Romana, and the 
re-entry of the Austrians.' Zoppi plays with the idea that Mariani 
may have fought under Garibaldi, after this date, in the last skir- 
mishes around the lakes. But the autobiography says: 'I stayed at 
Milan until the beginning of September, and then left, having been 
engaged by the impresario Naum for the new Italian theatre of Pera 
in Constantinople.' 

He travelled by the Austrian Lloyd steamer from Trieste: 

Our voyage was somewhat disastrous. We had no little stormy weather, 
and having gone ashore at Smyrna for a few hours to get something to eat, 
we found there more than a thousand cases of cholera a day. After leaving 
Smyrna we had, too, the misfortune to see cholera manifest itself on board, 
and you can imagine, my dear Giulio, how that cheered us up. 

When we were in the Dardanelles, near the Isles of the Princes (it was 
night-time), we saw Pera in flames! You can't conceive what a desolate 
impression this made on us; it was such that, having disembarked from 
the Lloyd steamer, at the sight of that heap of smoking ruins we wished 
above all things to return to Italy. But the brother of the impresario Naum, 
suspecting our intention to repatriate, had recourse to the police to prevent 
us embarking. 



294 THE MAN VERDI 

Then, by the next steamer, all the company of singers arrived, and so 
we began at once the rehearsals of Macbeth, adapting ourselves perforce 
to the semi-barbarous life led by foreigners at Pera. 

My destiny willed, however, that I should make the acquaintance of 
Prince Galitsin, at that time First Secretary of the Russian Embassy to 
the Sublime Porte, and he, a very accomplished 'cellist and a great music- 
lover, introduced me to His Excellency the Russian Minister, Sig. de 
TitofF. The latter, in his goodness, conceived such benevolence and esteem 
for me that in April 1849 he offered me hospitality in the Russian Palace 
and I remained there until 5th December 1851, when I left Constantinople. 

In the Scala Museum are some fragments of a diary kept by 
Mariani in Constantinople, which give some impression of his social 
activities there, showing him horse-riding, attending Lady Canning's 
ball, buying gloves for a young prince, taking tea with His Excellency, 
delighting the company with improvisations at the pianoforte, 
composing dance music and drawing-room romances, singing and 
playing the violin. 

His compositions of this period include a new Turkish National 
Anthem, an album of songs, Rimembranze del Bosforo, and two so- 
called dramatic cantatas, Matilde, or Lafidanzata del guerriero, and 
Gli Esuli, which are probably fragments of a never completed opera. 1 
The diary fragments include these passages, of uncertain date, but 
from 1850 or 1851: 

Sunday, 12th. I stayed home all day to study Verdi's Luisa Miller. 
I stayed in the city in the evening to hear the opera. ... I liked the 
opera (Verdi's / Masnadieri), but the singers were perhaps a bit weak. 

The autobiography explains why he was not himself conducting in 
the theatre: 

I remained director of the Pera Theatre until May 1850, for having 
been attacked by a chest complaint, which greatly afflicted me and gave 
reason to fear for my life, I was obliged to stay in almost complete retire- 
ment until my return to Italy, so I had to give up the theatre. Sig. de 
Titoff and all my friends of the Russian Embassy were greatly concerned 
about me and some of them accompanied me on various journeys in Asia 
Minor and Egypt. But the symptoms of my illness persisted and left me 
prey to unspeakable physical and moral depression, so that I thought my 
end was near when, invited to go to Messina for the opening of what is 
now the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele, I hoped that the climate there would be 
beneficial and I accepted the invitation. So on 5th December 1851, as 
mentioned above, I most regretfully left the Russian Palace in Constan- 
tinople and went, by way of Malta, to Messina. I stayed in that town until 
April of the following year (1852) and the orchestral musicians, who some 

1 They are little more than single arias for soprano, with cabalettas. The words of both 
are by De Dominicis. In the Piancastelli collection at Forli is the manuscript of a chorus 
'II pie vacilla', not part of either cantata, headed 'Chorus of Exiles weeping for their 
distant homeland, taken from the opera Lafidanzata del guerriero\ 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 295 

years earlier had not wanted to play under my direction, received me 
favourably and were prodigal with their praise. However, all that was a 
matter of indifference to me, for my chest trouble persisted, filling my 
mind with the utmost sadness. I suffered in consequence from the most 
desolating melancholia ; I was resigned to die ! From Messina I went once 
more to Naples. The good Mercadante received me with his usual courtesy, 
dedicated to me one of his compositions and arranged always for my salon 
pieces to be performed at his musical evenings. Maestro Florimo too was 
very friendly, but as my illness still continued, all these demonstrations of 
affection were almost painful to me, in that they rendered yet more bitter 
my leave-taking from life. 

A letter of introduction to Sir William Temple at Naples, from 
Stratford Canning, was apparently never presented, since it remained 
among Mariani's papers: x 'Although a great Liberal and having 
taken active part in the events at Rome [sic] in 1848, and bled in the 
defence of the Cause, he has during the last eighteen months uninter- 
ruptedly enjoyed the hospitality of the Russian Minister, M. de 
Titoff. Lady Canning and I have also seen enough of him to appre- 
ciate his talent and amiable disposition to be warranted in recom- 
mending him to your favourable notice and kind offices.' It is news 
that he had 'bled in the defence of the Cause', and certainly curious 
that a great Liberal should have accepted such favours from the 
representatives of the most despotic power in Europe. The auto- 
biography continues: 

In Naples I learned that at Genoa they were looking for an orchestral 
conductor, and as I had decided to go to Germany with Sig. de Titoff, 
who had followed me to Naples, I resolved to pass through Genoa. On 
arrival at the landing-stage of this city on 1st May, I found Maestri 
Gambini and Venzano waiting for me. At the Albergo Croce di Malta I 
received a visit from the Deputy Mayor, Sig. Viani, and, liking the climate, 
I decided to stay at Genoa for about two months, i.e. just for the spring 
season at the theatre, which had already begun. 

The evening of 15th May 1852, then, was the first on which I appeared 
before the public here as orchestral conductor. See the Gazzetta Musicale 
of that year, p. 94, the letter from Genoa, where it is stated, too, that after 
a few hours I conducted Robert le Diable at this theatre without rehearsals. 
It went well, my dear Giulio, but it was the rash act of a careless boy. 

When the spring season ended, pleased with my stay at Genoa, I 
received from the municipal authorities a definite appointment as con- 
ductor of the civic orchestra. In the summer I returned to Ravenna, and my 
native air was very beneficial, so that, by taking great care, in the course 
of a few years in this temperate climate I succeeded in freeing myself from 
the chest complaint that had made me so wretched. 

Thus began an association with Genoa, its municipal orchestra 
and the Teatro Carlo Felice, which lasted for the rest of Mariani's 

1 In the Biblioteca Beriana, Genoa. 



296 THE MAN VERDI 

life. The appointment, sometimes felt as irksome, nevertheless left 
him free to conduct elsewhere for fairly long periods. In this first 
spring season the operas performed included Verdi's Luisa Miller 
and Ernani, but it was Robert le Diable that scored the outstanding 
success, being given twenty-eight times. Zoppi and Mantovani list 
the dates of the performances of Meyerbeer's operas under Mariani 
at Genoa, but it is quite false to suggest, as those writers do, that 
these works were little known in Italy before Mariani's time. Manto- 
vani says that Robert le Diable was new to Italy; Zoppi seems to 
think it had previously been heard only at Florence. In fact, it had 
been performed at Florence in 1840, Padua in 1842, Parma in 1843, 
Verona (with Giuseppina Strepponi) in 1844, Milan (Teatro della 
Canobbiana) in 1844, Venice in 1845 and Milan (La Scala) in 1846. 
All these performances preceded those at Genoa in 1852, for which 
Mariani was not even initially responsible, since he took over the 
orchestra after the season had begun under another conductor. Then 
Les Huguenots had been heard at Florence, Padua, Turin, Venice, 
Milan and probably many other places before it was given at Genoa 
in 1857; and Le Prophete was heard at Florence, Turin, Parma, 
Milan and Venice before it reached Genoa, also in 1857. That much 
being said, it can be agreed that Mariani found in Meyerbeer's 
operas a superb vehicle for the display of his virtuosity, and the operas 
found in him a superlative interpreter. 

It is probable that Verdi had made Mariani's acquaintance at 
Milan in 1846 or 1847. It seems certain that he spent some time in his 
company in December 1852, when held up at Genoa on his way to 
Rome for // Trovatore. The first reference to the conductor in 
Giuseppina's correspondence occurs in a letter to Verdi of 2nd 
January 1853, from Leghorn, in a passage concerning the reported 
relative merits, at that time, of two singers, Erminia Frezzolini and 
Teresa De Giuli: 'I shall take a trip to Florence to hear and judge 
with my own ears, which are not ass's ears. Mariani has anything 
but ass's ears, and is a million times greater and better musician 
than I am, yet I fear that sex, sympathy, friendship, vanity, etc., 
etc., make him a judge sometimes less than wholly the servant and 
devotee of the laws of Themis, and that not through bad faith, but 
passion.' 

The earliest surviving letter from Verdi to Mariani is that published 
by Monaldi in // Maestro della Rivoluzione Italiana, p. 90, which 
must have been written on 7th March 1853 from Venice: 

La Traviata was a grand fiasco, and what is worse, they laughed. 
However, I'm not disturbed about it. Am I wrong, or are they wrong? I 
believe myself that the last word on La Traviata is not that of last night. 
They will see it again — and we shall see! Meanwhile, dear Mariani, 
register the fiasco. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 297 

The second person singular, the familiar form of address, is already 
used, as it is in the earliest surviving letter from Mariani to Verdi, in 
the archives at Sant' Agata, which is from the autumn of this same 
year, and is concerned with the possibility of a revival of La Traviata. 
Mariani wrote from a summer resort not far from Genoa : 

Arenzano, 25th September 1853. 
My Verdi! 

I have need of your approval and of your assistance. I am desirous of 
reviving on this stage your so unfortunate Traviata, with the honour that 
such a stupendous work deserves. I wrote about it to our friend Ricordi, 
but he replied that since you had made known to him certain particular and 
special distinctions concerning that opera, it was necessary for me to approach 
you and come to an understanding with you alone (those are his words), and 
that, for the rest, following a favourable reply from you, everything could 
easily be arranged. 

I believe, O my illustrious friend, that I could have no more propitious 
occasion of satisfying my desire, as la Salvini-Donatelli and Graziani, for 
whom you wrote that opera, are already engaged for the Carnival season, 
with the baritone Cresci, a young man gifted with a voice and artistic 
feeling, and always ready to accept the advice of those who know. What do 
you say? As for the performance of the orchestra and the chorus, of the 
ensemble, in short, it will be my concern to see that everything goes 
precisely as it should, and as can be expected of those who make up the 
family of this theatre, now one of the best in Italy. 

Of the stage-settings and the costumes, it suffices to tell you that Canzio 
is responsible for them, and in consequence they will be unique and as 
sumptuous as possible. 

For first opera II Trovatore will be given, and I assure you that the 
performance will be such as is fitting, in every part. 

For second opera we shall give Rigoletto, desired by everybody, and for 
third, if you are kind to me, La Traviata. 

Please don't forsake me ! 

I should cut a very poor figure, having already vociferated that La 
Traviata shall rise again on the stage of the Carlo Felice. 

I am writing from the country, where I have been living happily for a 
month, surrounded by the most enchanting display of nature. The day 
after tomorrow I return to town for the rehearsals of Scaramuccia, with 
which the autumn season will open on 1st October. . . . 

Forgive me for writing in such haste, but what do you expect? I'm just 
back from a shooting expedition and a boat is already waiting to take me 
out fishing ! 

I await a consolatory reply from you at Genoa. Remember me kindly to 
Signora Giuseppina. Greetings from your 

Angelo Mariani. 

Verdi's reply is lost, but it may be taken as certain that he refused to 
sanction the performance of La Traviata at Genoa, precisely because 



298 THE MAN VERDI 

two of the original singers were engaged. Mariani, however, deserves 
credit for his proposal, preceding that of Antonio Gallo at Venice, to 
revive and make a success of the opera. 

After this there is a gap in the correspondence of the two men, 
reflecting an enforced interruption of their personal relations. A 
month after the above letter was written Verdi left for Paris, and he 
stayed in France for the best part of the next three years. 

Mariani, apart from his summer excursions, remained at Genoa. 
Another valuable source of information about him is his correspon- 
dence with the Dante scholar Teodorico Landoni, the most intimate 
friend of his youth at Ravenna. 1 The following uncommonly reveal- 
ing and beautiful letter illustrates the passionate attachments of which 
Mariani was capable — of which, indeed, because of some inherent 
weakness in himself, he had need: 

Genoa, 30th September 1855. 
My Teodorico, dear Friend of my Heart, 

... I am trying to follow your example, and although I feel tired, some- 
times, of the bitter war waged on me by base malignity and envy, I end by 
despising them, and laughing at my enemies, who have recently been 
harassing me not a little. I imagine myself following you, and it seems 
that you say to me, holding out your hand : 

Vien dietro a me, e lascia dir le genti : 
Sta come torre ferma che non crolla 
Giammai la cima per soffiar de' venti. 

Today has been a very happy day for me, for in hearing from my good 
mother I had from her also news of the beloved friend of my childhood, 
my dear Teodorico. . . . 

You are far from me, and so I treasure the friendship, formed not long 
ago, of the most worthy Marchese Pallavicino, a man of wide literary 
culture, who had the honour of being secretary of the Eighth Scientific 
Congress at Genoa. This good creature, I assure you, O my Teodorico, is 
a second father to me, and through him I experience the comforts of the 
studious life, which I should vainly seek among the silly multitude who 
encumber my steps. 

The happy days of our childhood are always present in my memory, 
when, clasped in friendship's close embrace, we went to pass whole days, 
almost, in our poetic Pineta, now the desire of my heart. Do you remember, 
beloved friend, our readings together of Daphnis and Chloe, of the 
Decameron, of the divine Plutarch, and Alighieri's sacred poem, in the 
coolness of those perennial shades? I assure you that when I have need of 
tempering a little the bitterness of this my pilgrimage, it helps if I recall to 
mind those blessed days, for I do not believe that sentence is true which 
says: 

1 There are fifty-eight letters to Landoni in the Archiginnasio library at Bologna. I 
have consulted, as did Gatti, the copies in the Biblioteca Classense at Ravenna. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 299 

Nessun maggior dolore 
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice 
Nella miseria. 

In fact, what greater pleasure is there, for him who lies in darkness, than 
remembering the light; or for him who is in exile, than remembering his 
country? The soul flies on the wings of hope to times of serenity, and its 
confidence grows that perhaps they will come again. 

For the rest, be sure that I regret unceasingly that destiny drove me out 
alone in this ugly world, and that if by chance I have acquired a little fame, 
so great were the sufferings I had to undergo in order to win it, and so 
great my disillusionment about this wretched combination of skin and 
bone that is called humanity, that I have to confess I should have been 
happier if I had never left my humble home and my friend. 

Tomorrow the rehearsals begin, at the Teatro Carlo Felice. For nine 
months now I shall have to wrestle again with that singular race of the 
so-called Signori Virtuosi. La Bendazzi is once again our prima donna 
assoluta and she has chosen (very badly, in my opinion, for it's a very old 
opera for this public) Verdi's Ernani for the first opera of the season. 

The Marchese Pallavicino, here mentioned for the first time, was 
the father of that Teresa Sauli Pallavicino (Sauli would seem to have 
been her mother's maiden name) with whom Mariani is said to have 
had a love affair, and in whose arms he is said to have died. She was 
a young girl at this time. Among Mariani's numerous salon com- 
positions is a volume of songs, II Trovatore nella Liguria, dedicated 
'alia nobil donzella Teresa Pallavicino'. 1 

In July 1856 Mariani came to London to arrange for the publica- 
tion of some of his compositions. He never conducted in this country 
but, according to the Gazzetta Musicale di Milano, he took part in 
the course of about a month in sixteen musical evenings at the houses 
of Lord Malmesbury and others. Mariani, as we have seen, liked 
always to move in high society. 

The first actual musical collaboration between Mariani and Verdi 
was the production of Aroldo at Rimini in the summer of 1857. 
Eugenio Checchi 2 tells how during the rehearsals Mariani made the 
orchestra repeat over and over again the storm music in the last act, 
without being able to get the effect he wanted, and how Verdi at last 
told him to give it up and get on with the rehearsal. Afterwards he 
explained : ' God preserve me from doubting even for a moment your 
ability or that of your excellent players ! But didn't you perceive that 
it was ineffective because the scoring is faulty? I promise it will be 
rescored by tomorrow evening.' Checchi regards this simply as the 
ingenuous confession by Verdi of his mistake, an example of 'the 

1 Precise date of publication unknown. Four songs from // Trovatore nella Liguria, 
all with this dedication, are included in a volume of twenty-two Melodie Italiane pub- 
lished in London in 1859 by Ewer & Co. 

2 Verdi (Florence, 1901), pp. 142-3. 



300 THE MAN VERDI 

simplicity of truly great men'. But Gatti, as is his way, sees more in 
it than that. He says that Mariani was wounded and began, from 
that time, to seek means of opposing Verdi, setting up against him, 
above all, Meyerbeer. Nobody who had had access to Mariani's 
letters to Verdi could possibly believe this. It is the first of several 
mistaken conclusions by which the whole chronology of the history 
of the relations of these two men has been falsified. As for the other 
anecdote, according to which, when people at Rimini were talking of 
Verdi's music, Mariani said : ' But this is music that won't last. Talk 
to me about that of Meyerbeer!' we shall see later that it is drawn 
from a letter that has been first misdated and then misinterpreted, 
and that Mariani himself flatly denied he had ever used such words. 

After Aroldo, in reality, an increasingly warm friendship developed 
between Verdi and Mariani. On his journeys by sea, to and from 
Naples and Civitavecchia, Verdi generally spent a few days at Genoa, 
where Mariani made himself useful and agreeable. A letter to Cesare 
De Sanctis of 29th April 1858, after the conclusion of the battle with 
the Neapolitan censorship over Un hallo in maschera, says : 'At Genoa 
I visited the theatre, but in strictest incognito. Mariani had me enter 
by a secret door and, without meeting a living soul, I went to a box 
in the fourth tier where (behind drawn curtains) I heard the first two 
acts of Mose.' Mariani's first visit to Sant' Agata took place later in 
this year. And from this year onwards his surviving correspondence 
becomes almost superabundant. 

There are two hundred and twenty-nine of Mariani's letters at 
Sant' Agata, many of them of enormous length, from the years 
1858-70. Only eight letters were published by Luzio in the Carteggi 
verdiani; others are included in Abbiati's volumes. Verdi's surviving 
autograph letters to Mariani are divided between the Biblioteca 
Beriana at Genoa and the Biblioteca Classense at Ravenna: the two 
collections together comprise fifty-three letters, dating from 1858 to 
1864. After the latter date we have to rely, for the Verdian side of the 
correspondence, on about a dozen entries in Giuseppina's letter- 
books and a single letter in the composer's own Copialettere. Luzio's 
commentary in the Carteggi verdiani is heavily biased against Mariani. 
He did not know of the letters at Ravenna, although they had been 
published, 1 and supposed that all Verdi's letters after 1863, the date 
of the last at Genoa, had been destroyed by Mariani or his heirs 
because they presented the conductor in an unfavourable light. In 
contrast with this, according to Luzio, stands ' the eloquent fact that 
the very voluminous correspondence of Mariani is conserved at 

1 Partly by Zabery, 'Lettere inedite di Verdi e Petrella ad Angelo Mariani' (Musica, 
16th March 1913), and partly by S. Muratori, 'Lettere del Verdi al Mariani' (in a 
Numero unico, Centenario di Giuseppe Verdi, Ravenna, 1913). The letters at Genoa are 
well known, at any rate in extracts, from the appendix to the Copialettere and from 
various articles. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 301 

Sant' Agata in its entirety'. This is untrue. For instance, between 
May and December of 1860 we have thirteen of Verdi's letters and 
none of Mariani's. Few such collections survive complete. 

Mariani's letters are essential for the understanding of his relations 
with Verdi. The difficulty in discussing them is that they are almost 
endlessly long-winded, repetitive and generally badly written. And 
yet only by reading them in bulk can one gain a clear picture of this 
man, in his boundless devotion to Verdi and all his works. Mariani 
worshipped Verdi, and would have allowed himself to be cut to 
pieces to give him pleasure. That, above all, is what emerges from 
examination of this correspondence. 

Such an attitude of intense respect and devotion was a prerequisite 
for any close friendship with Verdi. Given it, he would relax his 
severity and treat with a kind of laughing indulgence the weaknesses 
of natures less adamantine than his own. Not that Mariani was ever 
allowed to forget that he had weaknesses. His pen or his tongue could 
easily run away with him; his volatility, his indecision and frequent 
lack of judgment were deplored by Verdi. All this side of Mariani 
was summed up in the sobriquet 'Wrong Head' (Testa Falsa) given 
him by the composer. On the comparatively rare occasions when his 
conduct could be entirely approved he was called 'Right Head' 
(Testa Giusta) or 'Good Head' (Buona Testa). The subject of these 
nicknames recurs continually in Mariani's correspondence for many 
years; there are periods when every letter has some reference to it, 
when, after fulfilling one of Verdi's numerous commissions, he 
instances this as an example of his reliability and pleads, only half 
humorously, for a revision of opinion and the abandonment of the 
offensive nickname. A few words of praise send him into ecstasies ; 
he is happier if Verdi only omits a few letters, calling him 'Wro . . 
He . .'; he is grieved when the full nickname is resumed; in the end 
he accepts it resignedly, in the knowledge that in Verdi's eyes he 
could scarcely ever do anything right. 

In 1858 Verdi's temporary passion for collecting the autographs 
of famous men was at its height. Mariani made numerous contribu- 
tions to the album at Sant' Agata, providing autographs of Guerrazzi, 
Massimo d'Azeglio, Ugo Foscolo and, after a second visit to 
England, Brougham, Bulwer and others. The Foscolo item was a bill 
of exchange from the English period, signed with a pseudonym 
preceded by the poet's true initials. Mariani explained this and 
added that it was all the more precious as ' an eternal witness to the 
privations which that noble soul had to suffer in the time of his 
dolorous pilgrimage in hac lacrymarum valle. Poor Foscolo! To 
think that at times he hadn't even £2 to pay his housemaid ! ' This was 
written in a despondent mood, similar to that which found expression 
in the letter to Landoni already quoted, but in this case Mariani's 



302 THE MAN VERDI 

variations on an unoriginal theme take on a tone of quite grotesque 
exaggeration : ' It is all too true, O my sweetest Verdi (and you know 
it by experience) — the lives of great men must always be tormented 
by the wickedness of this stinking carcass that calls itself humanity.' 
Before recognition comes : ' It is necessary for your heart to be only 
dust, for your head, with all its immense ideas, to be nothing but a 
bare skull, for a tombstone to crush that boiling breast in which 
glowed the most noble passions, the most noble sorrows; and real 
happiness is impossible for you to discover among this stupid swarm 
of parrots ! ' Such ridiculous language helps to explain why Mariani 
was regarded sometimes at Sant' Agata as a sort of involuntary 
court jester. Nevertheless, his constant love and desire to serve Verdi 
are most touching. The letter that accompanied the Foscolo auto- 
graph ends : 

Continue to love me, for even if I had a wrong head, that would not 
invalidate a heart wholly devoted to you and a soul able to nourish itself 
on your sublime musical inspirations. 

Your Angelo Mariani, 
Good Head. 

'Good Head' is thrice underlined. 

A projected return visit to Sant' Agata came to nothing because 
Mariani stayed longer in England and France than had been antici- 
pated. 'You say nothing more about coming to Sant' Agata,' Verdi 
wrote. 'Were you too bored? . . . You are not wrong, for the place 
could hardly be more horrible.' 

Shortly before Verdi returned to Naples in October 1858 he asked 
for information about the steamers leaving from Genoa. Mariani 
replied in minute detail, at great length, on the time-tables of the 
various shipping companies, Neapolitan and Piedmontese, every 
corner and all the margins of the paper being utilized. Some of 
Mariani's letters have to be seen to be believed. When he had reached 
the end of his notepaper but not the end of his thoughts he would 
turn the letter sideways and continue at right angles to what he had 
already written. The result, particularly when the ink has passed 
through the paper to the other side, is an inextricable tangle of words. 

Giuseppina had a nickname of her own for Mariani. She called him 
'Frate Lasagna', which is untranslatable, implying a combination of 
laziness and foolishness; 'Brother Ass' seems to be about as near as 
one can get in English to this term, which Mariani himself applied 
to Piave. A letter from Giuseppina to Florimo from Rome 15th 
February 1859 1 refers to a love affair between Mariani and one 
Elena Massa, of Genoa, and to the former's seeming reluctance to 
commit himself to matrimony: 

1 In the library of the Naples Conservatorio. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 303 

I have to advise you that Brother Ass (the former Angelo Mariani) has 
not yet replied to my letter. Perhaps because he's so busy; perhaps he 
intends to write when the wedding is over . . . perhaps he has taken the 
bait. . . . What do you think? It has already been proved that the greatest 
men have weaknesses even greater ... so our Mariani may also have them. 
For the rest, he 's a good friend, a distinguished conductor and a musician 
of immense gifts. 

In view of what has been written about Mariani's attitude after the 
production of Aroldo at Rimini, a letter of his of 25th March 1859, 
from Genoa, is worth quoting at some length : 

Illustrious Maestro, Friend of my Heart! 

Although I know it is extremely distasteful to you to hear talk of the 
theatre, of yourself and your works, nevertheless this time I take the 
liberty of boring you a bit by announcing that your Aroldo had here a 
fanatical success. 

The tenor Agresti was able to raise himself to the heights of his role, 
and it was truly great good fortune for him to appear in this beautiful 
Aroldo, which brought him ovations for the first time in this theatre, to 
which he could else never have aspired, so low had he fallen in public 
esteem in the preceding operas. I assure you, O illustrious Maestro, that 
Agresti sang the part of Aroldo in accordance with your intentions, and 
with that I think I have said everything. Pizzicati and la Parepa, too, did 
well. Not a movement, not an accelerato, not a shade of colour that was 
not yours! Such stupendous music, performed according to your sacred 
intentions, could not help meeting with public approval, and it did so 
truly, so that the auditorium of our severe Carlo Felice resounded with 
applause such as had not been heard there for a long time. . . . 

I would like you to read the official newspapers of this city, to see how 
they justly proclaim Aroldo a worthy opera of yours, to be ranked among 
the most beautiful works of modern music, which truly has no reason to 
envy that which was written twenty years ago! I am really happy that 
Aroldo went well. What would you have said of me, poor Wrong Head, if I 
had proved incapable of bringing out all its beauties, by a loving and 
zealous performance? It is true that you would have laughed, but neverthe- 
less I should have been mortified to the point of tears, because not only 
was an accomplished work of yours concerned, but a score which I had 
the honour of conducting under your own eyes at Rimini, where it went 
so well and pleased enormously, and which I consider now a most sweet 
part of my own heart, since its melodies recall to me days I spent happily 
with you and your wife, for whom I feel, more than a loving affection, a 
veneration that shall be eternal like my soul. 

It is quite impossible to believe, after reading such letters as this, that 
Mariani was seeking to supplant Verdi, in the operatic hierarchy, by 
the exaltation of Meyerbeer or anyone else. Nor can any credence 
whatsoever be given to rumours collected at second hand by Zoppi * 
1 pp. 144-5. 



304 THE MAN VERDI 

that at Rimini Mariani always silenced Verdi in debate, and some- 
times even insisted that he should not attend the rehearsals. We know 
that the conductor, seeking effects of superficial brilliance, used to 
take liberties with the scores, and that the composer objected to this. 
It is evident that there had already been discussion between them on 
this point, and that Verdi had imposed his will on Mariani as he did 
on everyone else. 

A batch of letters from April, May and June 1859 is wholly con- 
cerned with the course of the war against the Austrians. Verdi, in the 
depths of the country, was anxious for news ; Mariani, at Genoa, saw 
all the Piedmontese newspapers and the official bulletins, and himself 
witnessed the disembarkation of the French troops and the arrival of 
the emperor. He supplied, in astonishing profusion, what Verdi 
wanted. The following extracts represent only a small part of 
Mariani's almost daily news-letter service: 

26th April: 

Eight frigates and two warships with French troops have just arrived in 
our port. Some arrived last night, too, from Corsica; it was the 33rd, 34th, 
37th and 38th regiments of the line. Tomorrow evening two batteries of 
artillery and five thousand cavalry are arriving from Africa. . . . Volunteers 
continue to arrive — three or four hundred a day. Twenty-eight thousand 
of them are already in the regiments. . . . 

I would advise you to leave instantly. Come to Genoa, a safe city, 
where you can live in retirement, and keep yourself informed about events 
which must interest you so much. 

12th May: 

I have been waiting with real anxiety for your letter. I thought that it 
would be so : you haven't received regularly the official Gazette that up to 
today I have always sent you. Well, we must be patient, and I '11 give you 
the news directly. Thus I'll have the advantage of being often in touch 
with you, a thing most sweet to me, and you will know better what is 
happening here, for a decree has been issued by the government forbidding 
all newspapers of this state to mention the movements of our army or 
anything regarding politics. So we only have the official bulletins, some- 
what meagre, and anyone venturing to give news that had not first been 
announced by the government would incur most severe penalties, and 
would probably be arrested. As several bulletins are issued every day, and 
these say very little, it wouldn't be possible for me to send you them all, 
first because they wouldn't reach you, and then you wouldn't learn from 
them what I can write you privately. 

Nevertheless he copied by hand many of the bulletins, as well as 
passing on, in defiance of the censorship, all the information he 
could gather: 

First of all then, I'll tell you that up to last night the French army that 
passed through Genoa has amounted to about a hundred thousand men, 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 305 

the greater part Zouaves, Turcos, of the Imperial Guard, the most formid- 
able soldiers, as you know, that France possesses. The artillery has guns 
on a new system with a range of eight thousand metres, and these guns 
they have allowed no one to see, so jealous are they of the invention. 
At any moment now the Emperor Napoleon will arrive. The whole city 
is decorated for his arrival. In all the French troops the most lively 
enthusiasm reigns. I can't tell you anything about the Piedmontese troops 
because they're all on the field. The French, too, as soon as they arrive, 
go on straight to the field. Once Napoleon is there the great battle will take 
place on which, in large part, the success of this holy war depends. 

This letter, resumed later, has an exalted outburst, written under 
the immediate impression of the events described : 

Here he is ! I hear the batteries of the port announcing by their salvoes 
the arrival of Napoleon ! It is two o'clock in the afternoon. By God ! It 
sounds like the end of the world ! The bells are ringing in celebration and 
all the forts with their cannonades are saluting the Head of the great 
Warrior Nation that has stretched out a fraternal hand to Italy, to aid her 
efficaciously to win at last her longed-for independence. The cheers of the 
people near the port and on the walls of the city can be heard from here ! 
What enthusiasm! What a beautiful festal day! How moved I am! Oh! 
my Verdi, sommo Maestro, why aren't you here, with your kind Signora 
Giuseppina, to enjoy this unique spectacle, impossible to describe! Oh! 
how imposing is the sight of an army and a people, throwing themselves 
with assurance into battle, in the war between tyranny and justice and 
civilization! Long live Italy, God's true blessing! Long live those who 
generously come to shed their blood for her! 

23rd May: 

I don't understand it at all. I have written to you continually, and today 
I receive your kind letter of the 18th, in which you say you haven't received 
my letters. I wrote to you on the 12th, 13th and 14th of this month; I 
wrote you, too, another letter which I posted the day before yesterday. . . . 

I advise you to leave at once, and move to a place where you '11 be safe. 
Come, my Verdi, don't stay in an exposed position, where you are, because 
if the Austrians, as seems likely, retreat, they will probably be hindered in 
this from the direction of Cremona, and there is every probability that the 
fatal action will take place on those plains. The fact is that the Austrians 
are behaving barbarously everywhere. Yesterday, for example, at the inn 
near Torrialla they shot a whole family. So put in a safe place everything 
you possess in the way of jewellery, silverware, linen and valuable things. 
You must, in short, bury everything, for the times are most perilous, and 
you know better than I do that that horde of barbarians respects neither 
celebrity nor talent, neither works of art nor men, and much less women 
and children. ... If you want to leave Sant' Agata, I warn you that you 
won't be able to pass by Piacenza, since the bulk of the Austrian army is 
there. 



306 THE MAN VERDI 

Repeating himself a great deal, he beseeches Verdi, in various letters, 
to evacuate Sant' Agata; then resumes his account of the war: 

27th May: 

Garibaldi is at Varese, reached by crossing the mountains. Yesterday 
at four in the morning the Austrians, to the number of 5,000, attacked 
him, and by seven o'clock they had already been driven back beyond 
Malnate, with very heavy losses. The Alpine Brigade, led by the valiant 
Garibaldi, to the number of 4,000, the greater part volunteers, fought 
valorously, charging with the bayonet. The town of Varese contributed 
effectively to the defence of the barricades. To the cannon-shots of the 
Austrians the populace replied with cries of 'Viva lTtalia!', 'Viva Vittorio 
Emanuele!'. 

3rd June : 

Garibaldi's tactics show how expert he is in the art of war. He reappeared 
at Varese when they thought he was at Como. When at Como they thought 
he had retired into the mountains, here he is again in the town, after having 
soundly beaten the invader, who for a moment had thought of re-occupy- 
ing those towns, which perhaps now he will no longer be in a position to 
attack. . . . Today I met a French soldier wounded at Montebello, who 
told me that the Austrians are very much afraid of the bayonet, but that 
they are mechant at the same time. On that field of battle there were found 
the bodies of some French officers with their eyes gouged out. The sight 
of such barbarity so inflamed the French soldiery that they set off in 
pursuit of those cannibals and all those they found had their throats cut 
without mercy. It is said that the Emperor Napoleon has written a letter 
to the Emperor of Austria, reproaching him for the infamous manner in 
which his hired assassins wage war. He threatens that if such barbarity 
occurs again he will give no quarter to the prisoners, but put them all to 
the sword. . . . 

What will our poor Pantaloon, Piave, do at Venice? The French 
squadron has already announced the blockade of that city from the sea, 
and when it's blockaded from the land also the position there will be 
extremely serious. 

4th June: 

King Vittorio Emanuele has already given proofs of immense courage. 
At Palestra he was in the thick of the fight and by words and example 
encouraged the soldiers, and in the very forefront at the head of the 
Zouaves captured several guns from the enemy. The Zouaves (and it is 
said that about 800 of them were killed and wounded in that action) were 
astonished at such boldness, singular in anybody, but most singular in a 
king. When the guns, of which I told you in my last letter, were taken, the 
Zouaves shouted, in their outspoken way: 'Ah! ce bougre de Roi, c'est le 
Roi des Zouaves ! ' 

On the sixth page of this very long letter, often pages in all, he asked : 
'Tell me, my Verdi, doesn't it bore you to read my letters? Do you 




; * sk 





THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 307 

read them all? To tell you the truth, I write, write and write, because 
if you wish to have precise and genuine news you can have it, but 
then you can attach whatever importance you think to my letters.' 

At length he got his reward. 'Dear Mariani,' Verdi wrote on 12th 
June, 'You have a Good Head and an excellent heart. I have received 
your letter of the 7th as well, and thank you for that and all the others. 
Poor Mariani! What a lot of trouble I've given you! But now you can 
stop, because I have the Gazzetta di Milano sent me, and then we 
have the news from near by.' Mariani's reply, of 16th June, for all its 
semi-humorous tone, shows clearly how much he had suffered from 
Verdi's attitude, and how much a word of praise rejoiced his heart: 

God bless you, dear Verdi! At last you have seen the light; at last you 
have come to your senses ; now I concede that you have every good quality 
to glorify your high intelligence, for you have become perfect! It was 
truly unworthy of a great genius, such as you are, not to concede that 
which is due to me. Perhaps you were severe with me in order to put my 
constancy to the test? Well, after all, you have had to agree! . . . You're a 
follower of St Thomas, aren't you? He wanted to touch the wounds of 
Christ, to convince himself, and you have put my Good Head to the test ! ! ! ! 
I gladly accept, then, your approval of this great virtue of mine, and from 
the depths of my soul I thank you for what you add about my excellent 
heart. . . . Now I am happy, and I assure you it was more painful to hear 
myself called 'Wrong Head' by you than it would have been if you had 
called me a bad musician, for I know I am that. No more ' Wrong Head ', 
then, and so be it ! 



The letter is signed: 



Angelo Mariani 
Good Head. 
Approved. 



The Treaty of Villafranca brought a convulsive re-appraisal of the 
actions and motives of the French emperor. In June Mariani had 
gone so far as to say: 'If the first Napoleon was great, the third 
Napoleon is certainly not inferior, and perhaps will leave a name more 
glorious in history.' In July, like every Italian patriot, he was angry, 
indignant and humiliated. Correspondence was resumed after an 
interval : 

5th September: 

Your kind letter of the 3rd, from Parma, was welcome beyond measure, 
because it brought me news of you, of which I had been deprived for a 
long time. To tell the truth, receiving no reply to my last letter, I was much 
troubled, and was afraid of having displeased you in some way or other. 
Now I am wholly content. You have shown that you haven't forgotten me, 
you honour me still with your favour, and I express over again my feelings 
of gratitude for your benevolence, which makes me so happy. 



308 THE MAN VERDI 

As soon as certain duties at Genoa permitted, he proposed to return 
to Sant' Agata, ' to express again by word of mouth my feelings of 
devotion, to pay my respects to kind Signora Giuseppina, to wrestle 
for an hour with that ugly great animal of yours, Black, and to talk a 
little about the wretched political events forced on our king, the only 
true man of honour among the crowned heads'. 

It was Mariani who arranged, through Sir James Hudson, for 
Verdi to visit Cavour, in retirement at Leri, when he came to Turin 
with the other representatives of the states that had voted for union 
with Piedmont. Sir James Hudson was a particular friend of Mariani, 
who often stayed in his house. 

After this the visit to Sant' Agata took place. The friends went 
shooting, and Mariani made the acquaintance of Barezzi and his 
wife. The signed photograph, inscribed with a phrase from Luisa 
Miller, that is reproduced in Zoppi's book, 1 was given Mariani before 
he left at the end of this visit, on 29th September. From Broni, near 
Stradella, where he stayed with the Massa family and other friends, 
he wrote next day : 

You and your wife will have forgiven me, won't you, if I was at fault 
in anything? You are so good, I know, so you will be indulgent with me. 

I shall write to Cavour. 

Tell Signora Giuseppina, that profound student of the history of Sant' 
Agata, that I have already executed her commission. . . . 

Give my affectionate regards to Signor Antonio Barezzi and to his 
good-natured consort, Signora Maddalena. My Verdi! My soul is full of 
gratitude for all you have so generously lavished on me. 

On 7th October he sent verbose birthday congratulations from 
Genoa. This is one of the letters in which his adoration is expressed 
in a manner at once touching and absurd: 

Sunday will be a delightful day for me! It's my Verdi's birthday! At 
twenty past four (exactly half past four by your watch), fixing my eyes on 
your beautiful portrait, which I have already had framed, I shall drink 
your health, and with this toast I shall send you a salutation of the soul as 
fervent as the prayers I raise to heaven always that its benedictions may 
aid you. And as I am firmly convinced that your house will be enlivened on 
that happy day by the presence of the angelic Signor Antonio Barezzi and 
his consort, I should like to ask you, O my best Verdi, in your gathering 
kindly to recall my poor name, because thus it will be most sweet to me 
too, to live where my heart has remained and where my wandering spirit 
strays. . . . 

As I've told you, I had a frame made for your portrait (it was my first 
thought) and so that this precious gift of yours may be kept in good 
condition I shall also have made for it a little curtain of green silk, to 

1 Facing p. 32. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 309 

preserve it from the light, which is always harmful to photographs. . . . 
I would give ten litres of my blood to be beside you with my gun. 
Nessun maggior dolore 
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice 
Nella miseria. 
Oh ! Happy this sheet of paper of mine that is going there ! 

Sir James Hudson had given Verdi a letter of introduction to one 
of Garibaldi's officers, Clemente Corte, at Modena, who would be 
able to assist him to secure one hundred and seventy-two rifles for the 
National Guard of Busseto. Corte agreed to help, indicated the firm 
of Danovaro at Genoa, but then seemed to lose all interest in the 
affair and did not reply to Verdi's subsequent letters. So it fell to 
Mariani's lot to clear up the confusion caused by Corte's defection, 
to inspect with an expert friend Danovaro's stock, the best part of 
which had been sold while a firm fresh order from Verdi was awaited, 
to reject some guns of inferior quality, and after about a month's 
activity to purchase and dispatch some brand-new ones from a 
consignment that had just arrived from St Etienne. By these services 
Mariani earned Verdi's gratitude and unqualified approval. After- 
wards he paid another visit to Sant' Agata. 

In December Giuseppina wrote to Florimo : 

Mariani is here! . . . Open your eyes as wide as you like, but he has been 
here for eight days, amid the snow, without seeing a living soul except 
Verdi and me, me and Verdi. This is a proof of friendship to astonish the 
world ! As you can imagine, we often speak of you, with the affection and 
esteem that you deserve. . . . We speak also of the Massa family and in 
particular of Signorina Elena, who is still Signorina Elena Massa, and for 
my part I have little hope of seeing her become one day Signora Elena 
Mariani. You know the good qualities of our friend ; but one must confess 
that in this matter he is a great Ass] We shall be making a short stay at 
Genoa, and I shall make use of that time to vex and torment him in such 
a way that he decides either to marry her or to leave her alone. Perhaps 
he'll send me to. . . ? All the worse for him! Sincere friends are too rare 
to be contemned. 

Mariani himself added a postscript: 

I am most happy in this cave covered in snow, because, as you know, 
Verdi and his wife take the place of everything else and form a world in 
themselves. Yes, my dear Florimo, I have spent nine days here in full 
contentment and today I am sad because I must return to Genoa tomorrow 
to recommence my tiresome occupations in the theatre. I shall feel better 
there when the Verdis have arrived. 

The first winter sojourn at Genoa, anticipated in this letter, lasted 
from 3rd January to 11th March 1860. For some time now Mariani 
had been busy inspecting houses and flats on Verdi's behalf. ' I wish 



310 THE MAN VERDI 

Genoa were a Paradise ', he wrote, ' so as to be worthy of receiving you 
within its walls.' But in the end Verdi and Giuseppina stayed in a 
hotel, the Croce di Malta, in Via Carlo Alberto. 

After the visit was over Mariani continued to look over houses, 
including some on the hill of Carignano. 'What happiness would be 
mine if I could find something to suit you! ' he wrote on 13th March. 
'Genoa without you is insupportable.' 

In the wilds of Sant' Agata, Verdi and Giuseppina often had 
occasion to ask their friends in the larger towns to buy things for 
them. The friends were glad to do so, and no reader of the letters 
published here could suppose for a moment that Mariani resented 
the demands made on him. But certainly he was given plenty to do. 
A letter of Verdi's of 21st March, almost domineering in tone, is 
remarkable in this respect: 

In the days when you were just a musician, I wouldn't have dared to 
write you a letter like the present one; but now that you have become a 
capitalist, a speculator and usurer, I am giving you various commissions, 
as the result of which you will be out of pocket for a few days {only for a 
few days) to the extent of a few hundred francs, which will soon be repaid, 
together with interest, broker's fees and similar robberies, etc., etc. 

First of all, you will go to collect my portrait, and you will pay for 
everything, as detailed in the enclosed letter. 

In the second place, you will make Maestro Gambini take you to that 
nurseryman, and you will buy ten Magnolia Grandiflora about a metre and 
a half high, but in any case not less than a metre high. Let them be carefully 
dug up and wrapped in straw, and that only the day before you leave. 

In the third place, you will go to Noledi, and ask him if he wants to 
exchange my St fitienne gun for his Liege one that I like, calibre 13-14. 
You know it, and I will give him four gold napoleons in addition. You can 
assure him that my gun can be said to be new, for I 've only used it for a 
part of the month of December, and the iron and the wood shine like new. 
For the rest, if Noledi wants to see it first, write at once, and I will send it 
to you by rail, in a box. I want you however to try out the Liege gun, and 
see that it shoots straight and doesn't kick. If that 's not the case, leave it. 
It's necessary to try it with five and six grains of powder. 

The snow has gone ; however, if you wait a few days longer the ground 
will dry out and we shall be able to go into the woods. 

You will bring everything with you, putting it all on the railway as your 
baggage. You will take a ticket to Piacenza; at Piacenza you will have it 
renewed as far as Borgo San Donnino. You will leave at ten in the morn- 
ing, arrive at Piacenza about three, wait half an hour at Piacenza and be 
at Borgo after four. You will find a carriage for Busseto, but as this 
carriage waits for the connection from Parma, you will be very late in 
leaving Borgo. You can dine at Borgo while waiting for the said carriage 
or hire a gig expressly to take you to Sant' Agata ; or you can write to me 
the day before, and I will come or send my horses to Borgo. 

Do you understand? 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 311 

One sees that Verdi, in his practical way, was intent on getting his 
trees replanted as soon as possible. But, all the same, it was a 
monstrous thing to expect a friend to carry ten magnolias about with 
him, as part of his personal baggage, to say nothing of a gun and the 
'portrait', which, as an invoice at Sant' Agata shows, was not a 
painting but a heavy marble statuette by Luccardi. If Mariani failed 
to appear at Sant' Agata on this occasion, however, it was not because 
he objected to being made use of in this way. His letters show that he 
did everything possible to satisfy Verdi. The gun, he found, had 
already been sold. The nurseryman indicated by Gambini had some 
well-branched magnolias, a little over a metre high, for which he 
asked five francs a tree. Mariani made a note of this, promised to 
return later, and then made a tour of all the gardens and nurseries of 
Genoa. He found a shop in the Via Carlo Alberto which could 
supply ten magnolias, a metre and a half high, at half the price of the 
others. This was on Friday, 23rd March. During Holy Week, com- 
mencing 2nd April, he would have to be at Genoa for services in the 
cathedral. So he proposed that he should come to Sant' Agata on 
Thursday, 29th March, and stay until the morning of 2nd April. 
If Verdi would reply at once, confirming these arrangements, the 
trees could be ordered on Tuesday, dug up and packed on Wednesday 
and be ready to leave with Mariani himself on Thursday. 

Verdi replied on 26th March: 

If you can only stay here for four or five days it would be better if you 
came immediately after Easter, so that we should have plenty of time to 
go into the woods with our guns. For the rest, you can come either now 
or after Easter, and whenever you wish, for you know you can never be 

at all in the way and I'm always pleased to see you Collect the portrait 

and pay all the charges, both for transport and customs dues, and when 
you come here (either now or after Easter) bring it with you as your 
baggage. Do the same with the magnolias; take those at two and a half 
francs, and if there are some more than a metre and a half high (paying 
more for them) better still. 

Having decided to visit Sant' Agata, as he had suggested, before 
Easter, Mariani, armed with Verdi's letter, returned to the nursery- 
man and ordered the ten largest magnolias he could find, magnificent 
specimens costing five francs twenty centimes each. In the morning 
of 28th March he took the marble statuette to the station and returned 
in the evening with the magnolias. Then calamity overtook him. The 
enormous package, almost three metres high, was too big to go in the 
luggage van. The station-master advised him to take it to the goods 
station the next morning, where it could be put into an open truck, 
covered with a tarpaulin to prevent sparks from the engine setting 
fire to the straw wrappings. Poor Mariani, in great distress, explained 
all this the same evening in a long letter, promising to get up before 



312 THE MAN VERDI 

seven the next morning to go to the goods station and find out the 
quickest and safest way to send the trees to Borgo San Donnino. That 
evening Verdi wrote again : 

Dear Mariani, 

Wednesday evening. 

If you haven't left, and if you haven't sent the magnolias, instead of ten 
bring twelve. It would be better if they were more than a metre and a half 
high, even if they cost more. In haste. Farewell. 

G. Verdi. 

On 29th March, having sent off the ten magnolias by the only means 
possible, slow goods train, Mariani, 'poor Wrong Head', as he called 
himself, assured Verdi that they would be all right, packed as they 
were, for up to fifteen days. Not having been able to carry out his 
instructions to the letter, and having lost another day in arranging 
the dispatch by goods train, he decided to put off his visit. He wrote 
again on 1st April: 

This morning there arrived from Naples a box containing the magnifi- 
cent portrait of your wife, some other pictures and various books. 

Yesterday I received your letter and I am awaiting the nurseryman's 
convenience before sending you the other two magnolias, which I hope to 
be able to send by express train, since a small package, not very heavy, 
is concerned. 

I hope you will have received the other plants by now, and your portrait 
in marble. You will also have received my letters and thus know of my 
anguish over the difficulties I encountered in connection with the plants. 
I await with anxiety a consoling letter from you. 

The ten magnolias, the statuette and the box from Naples all arrived 
safely. The order for the two extra magnolias was subsequently 
cancelled, as Verdi found he could buy them locally. 

On 1st April Giuseppina wrote to Achille Montuoro: 'We are at 
Sant' Agata, but lively correspondence about the purchase or 
exchange of guns continues with our friend Mariani, who continues, 
too, the dispatch of bric-a-brac, and indeed we expect a box to arrive 
this very evening.' Bric-a-brac, she called it! Giuseppina had little 
faith in the marksmanship of either of them: 'Mariani is coming to 
Sant' Agata after Easter and then Verdi and he will start their walks 
in the woods near the Po, after game. However, if we eat woodcock, 
pheasant, etc., at home, it will be when I have been able to find some 
to buy in the market.' 

In Giuseppina's letter-book, under the date 19th April, is found the 
acknowledgment of another parcel from Genoa, containing three 
pounds of powdered orris-root and thirty yards of black lace, the 
latter commissioned from Signora Paolina Massa, the mother of 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 313 

Mariani's friend Elena. This letter is one of Giuseppina's narrative 
masterpieces : 

My best thanks to you, dear Mariani, and to the very amiable lady 1 
Signora Paolina. The orris spreads its sweet scent about my room; the 
lace will serve to adorn a little my ugly person. Ask Signora Paolina if I 
may wear the lace without scruple, because, the price being so low, I'm 
almost afraid it must have derived from the proteges of Mercury ! Joking 
apart, the lace is just what I wanted and the price lower than I expected. 

I am glad you are accompanying the Massa ladies as far as Borgo, and 
I am sure that if you warn us in time we shall come to shake them by the 
hand. 

So Signora Paolina is also a bit hard up? A real affliction of humanity! 
Instead of making me sorry for her, it almost gives me pleasure — the 
pleasure of the damned, to be sure, but still, pleasure! I am myself so often 
hard up that I am glad to know that others are sometimes in like case. But 
please don't be anxious about your credit, Mariani. As I told you in an 
earlier letter, I am sufficiently in funds at the moment and, certainly, 
temptation to spend money can come to no woman who lives at Sant' 
Agata, however much of a coquette she may be. 

But when one begins the year badly, one continues in the same strain, 
however much one tries to break the spell and be prudent to avoid loss. 
There are certain destructive little spirits which receive orders to torment 
this or that individual. This year, 1860, I have a malevolent and spiteful 
one which persecutes me in a thousand ways and empties my purse 
without any advantage to me. It began by stealing my wrap at Genoa; 
for, believe me, I didn't lose it — it was stolen. Spirits in the form of 
pickpockets and thieves are doing excellent business this year. From 
Fontana, the Parisian jeweller, 250,000 francs' worth of loose precious 
stones were stolen this month, in his shop, under his very eyes ! ! ! How 
much easier to steal a black wrap, packed in yellow paper! Accursed 
colours, always fatal to the Italians ! 2 Now can you guess what form this 
spirit took at Sant' Agata in order to harm me? The form of an enormous 
grey mouse, with whiskers as long as those of our Vittorio Emanuele! 
This rascal (the mouse, not Vittorio !) began operations in my room a few 
nights ago, and as it's the way of sprites to be eccentric, the idea occurred 
to it of banging on certain metallic hangings until I awoke. 

I light the lamp; the noise stops. I put out the lamp; the noise begins 
again. I began to laugh, thinking that the peasants, because they are 

ignorant, and the priests, because they are , would say it was the result 

of excommunication. 

I said nothing and fell asleep again. 

In the morning Gigia comes to me and says : ' Signora, there must be a 
big mouse here, because it has pulled a carpet this way, a towel that way.' 
I run to see . . . alas ! the excommunication had vented itself on various 
things, and above all on a shawl of mine, reduced to a sieve, and a pair of 
new shoes, not even worn yet! I look for the mouse, right and left. Nothing 

1 These words in English. 

2 The colours of imperial Austria. 



314 THE MAN VERDI 

to be found. Serafma enters armed with a stick and with Dindin (Dindin is 
the cat) under her arm. We close the doors. I get up on a trunk, Gigia on 
a chair. Serafina, who is more of a soldier than me, begins to wave her 

stick and mutter between her teeth : ' Son of a , you 've got to come 

out.' Dindin begins to get restless because he's half strangled under 
Serafina's arm. After ineffectual manoeuvres, we raise our eyes and see the 
mouse on the curtain-rod, seeming to make fun of us! Give it him! Bang! 
Bong! The enemy, reduced to his last defences, falls headlong from his 
throne. Serafina flings Dindin on the mouse, and victory is ours — Dindin's, 
that is, who from now on will be called 'Zouave'. 

This affair of the mouse means a loss of about a hundred francs. Let 's 
hope that the troubles are ended with Easter. . . . We hope to have you 
here with us soon, and then we will pay our debts. 

This brilliantly witty letter is a precious memorial of a friendship 
that seemed as if it would last for ever. Verdi himself, though he 
treated Mariani at times almost like a servant, and often assumed the 
role of a heavy father rebuking an irresponsible schoolboy, was quite 
uncommonly open and cordial with him, and untiring in his invita- 
tions: 'Come, then, to Sant' Agata, and send London and Paris to 
the devil! If you abstained from coming from fear of disturbing us 
you would be the most wrong-headed person in the world. I have 
always treated you sans fagons, so as to make you understand that 
you can stay here for months and months without being at all in the 
way. So come, now or later, whenever you like, and send your 
scruples to the devil.' 

In the autumn of 1860 Mariani conducted his first season of opera 
at the Teatro Comunale at Bologna. Un ballo in maschera, La 
Favorita and Le Prophete were all very successful. He was delighted 
with the orchestra, which compared very favourably with that 
available at Genoa. His contract with the municipality of Genoa was 
due to expire in the following spring and moves were afoot to secure 
him permanently for Bologna, not only as conductor at the Teatro 
Comunale, but as director of the Liceo Musicale. Mariani himself, 
however, tended to favour another offer which had reached him from 
Naples. But he wavered a good deal between the two. Writing from 
Genoa to Stefano Golinelli at Bologna on 22nd December, 1 he 
apologized for not having replied earlier and explained : 

Besides the bother of the theatre I had the most sweet company of 
Verdi, who decided to come here with me, and stayed until yesterday, so, 
as you can easily imagine, whenever I had a moment's freedom I had to 
devote it to him. Florimo has written to me from Naples, inviting me to go 
there as absolute director of that great theatre. I showed Verdi the letter, 
but he too is of the opinion that I should stay at Bologna, where the 
musical resources, especially the vocal ones, are better. And then, as he 

1 In the Piancastelli Collection. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 315 

says, at Naples there is such confusion in the organization of the theatre 
and the Conservatorio that many years would be needed to get them in 
order, and there would be a risk, perhaps, of not succeeding at all, for the 
demoralization there extends into everything. 



The postscript of this letter is touching : 



Verdi was astonished when he saw the enormous cigar you gave me; I 
presented it to him — he was so much in love with it. 

Mariani was attracted by the Neapolitan offer because it was made 
directly to him and did not depend, as did the appointment to the 
Liceo at Bologna, on the deliberations of a committee. By the end of 
January 1861 he was on the point of signing the contract to go to 
Naples. Both Verdi and Giuseppina gave him their advice in writing. 
It is curious that Verdi's letter, dated 31st January, 1 begins and ends 
in exactly the same way as Giuseppina's, dated 1st February in her 
letter-book. The advice given is the same; Verdi is more concise, 
Giuseppina more sprightly and amusing: 

Thank you, thank you a thousand times for Loulou's passport — though 
I would have preferred the city of Turin to be indicated, where Loulou will 
perhaps have to go very soon. Verdi is in a bad temper, fearing to obtain 
that majority of votes which would make any other candidate happy. 
Such is life! 

We come now to the question of Naples, on which, since you are kind 
enough to attach some value to it, I will give you my opinion in a few 
words. 

From time, I should say, almost immemorial, Naples has had orchestral 
conductors born in those parts and a foreigner would wound those 
municipal susceptibilities, to eradicate which many many years will be 
needed. It's quite true that since Festa they have had only conductors who 
are mediocre to say no worse. . . . But they are Neapolitans, and have the 
advantage of possessing fecund wives, who make them fathers of dozens 
of children ! Now at Naples to be father of a large family means to have 
a claim to protection, interest, sympathy. These sentiments are highly 
moral, these claims of father and mother are most sacred, and would be 
most praiseworthy always, if they weren't in most cases used as means to 
commit injustice and employ inept people and do every sort of bad thing. 

The present conductor is a Neapolitan and father of a family. He is 
therefore doubly armed to wound anyone who should wish to drive him 
from his post. There will be many, certainly, who will have the good sense 
to say: 'But this conductor is a pigmy; Mariani is of the stuff of Festa, 
Rolla, Costa, etc., etc' Yes, but the croaking of frogs is often more 
powerful than the song of the nightingales, and in this case you would 
have to put up with the chatter of the idle, who are numerous in all towns 
and in Naples more numerous than elsewhere. Now among your eminent 
qualities I haven't noticed that sans-souci needed to laugh at the swarm of 

1 Gatti, first edition, pp. 41-2; second edition, p. 399, and elsewhere. 
*L 



316 THE MAN VERDI 

insects which buzzes and stings all the more gleefully the more annoyance 
it causes. On the other hand, if at Genoa they grant you the pension, why 
throw into the sea so many years of hard work? Will Naples grant you, or, 
to put it better, will Naples take into account the years not spent in its 
service? You will say: 'Naples is an artistic city, and I am an artist par 
excellence^. ' It is true: Naples is an artistic city; Genoa is a commercial 
city; but at Naples, too, there are many troubles, and at Genoa good 
qualities are not lacking. The very activity of the population leaves it no 
time to bother about other people's affairs, and this freedom, this absence 
of inexorable daily gossip, is really God's great blessing on the earth! 

If, then, you feel your spirit strong enough to despise all obstacles, 
sustained by the idea of making the Neapolitan orchestra what it once was, 
the finest in Italy, and to sacrifice your peace of mind (at least for a time) 
on the altar of art — Hail, then, friend Mariani ! Arm yourself with shield 
and lance — that is, with your violin and magic bow — and en route for 
Naples ! 

With Angelo Catelani and Gaetano Gaspari urging him to come 
to Bologna, Florimo seeking to persuade him to come to Naples, and 
Verdi and Giuseppina leaving him in no doubt that they thought he 
would do better to stay at Genoa, Mariani was utterly unable to 
make up his mind. Another friend joined in, regretting his very 
apparent infirmity of purpose. On 28th February Mariani wrote to 
Verdi at Turin: 'I've just received a letter from Sir James Hudson, 
in which he tells me you called to see him yesterday and he is 
enchanted with the resolution of your mind and character. Indeed, 
he told me that if I had only a tithe of your firmness and perspicuity, 
I might become somebody. A fine discourse, eh? But I can't help it. 
God made me with a Wrong Head and I shall have to stay as I am 
in my littleness.' Verdi commented on 3rd March: 'Your letter made 
me laugh, for I can see you took great offence at Hudson's words.' 
Mariani replied, denying this, in a whirl of words : 

I did not take offence at what Sir James wrote to me in relation to you. 
What he says is quite right; it's what I too think of you, and I've always 
told you myself that one has to esteem you not only as the greatest musical 
genius of our day, but as the most honest man, of exemplary character and 
extreme firmness, that it has ever been given me to know. I '11 bring you 
that letter from Sir James; it's a just tribute to your rare excellence, and 
that is why I at once wrote to you about it, and not to complain of his 
most just reproaches that I haven't even a minimal part of your firmness of 
mind, and that a boy is enough [he alludes to the young Neapolitan Baron 
Cianciolo, of whom I told you in another letter] to put me in a fury and 
make me threaten even my true friends. 

An example of the sort of thing Hudson meant followed almost at 
once. Mariani reported on 18th March: 

Florimo wrote to tell me that at Naples there are big intrigues against 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 317 

me, that Capecelatro has fallen and there is someone now in power in the 
theatre who doesn't want any foreigners (!) and that to overcome these 
people I should write to Cavour and have myself officially appointed by 
him. I replied that it was never my intention to accept their offers, that we 
people of central and northern Italy do business with more honesty and 
frankness, and that they will greatly oblige me if they will leave me in 
peace. 

This is a typical piece of confused thinking. It was untrue that it had 
never been his intention to accept the position, since less than seven 
weeks before this he had told Catelani that he had all but concluded 
a new contract with Naples, and had asked for Verdi's and Giusep- 
pina's advice. It is dubious whether the remarks about honesty and 
frankness have reference to the Neapolitan intrigues or to the 
suggestion that he should approach Cavour; but since his opponents 
would obviously be very glad to leave him in peace, what he says 
could only hurt Florimo and his other supporters at Naples. The 
person now in power in the San Carlo theatre was Mercadante, as 
is clear from a later letter. 

A word of reproach from Verdi could reduce Mariani to a state of 
grovelling abjection. It seems to have come to the composer's ears 
that Un ballo in maschera was being prepared for performance at 
Genoa with an inadequate cast. In a sudden gust of anger he had 
complained of this, in a letter that has not survived. Mariani wrote 
four times to Verdi and once to Giuseppina, in the course of nine 
days, before and after the production of the opera. 'You are quite 
right, but I am not to blame,' he said on 27th March, in the course of 
an enormous letter, very difficult to read because the ink has passed 
through the paper : 

As a result of this misfortune I am in hell ! You know how I adore you 
and how I venerate all that is yours. What am I to do? Tell me what you 
want, by return of post, and I will obey you. I am ready to do anything. 
If you think fit send Tornaghi at once ; he will be able to see how the last 
rehearsals go. 

There was no answer, but the opera when produced was a brilliant 
success. He advised Verdi of this in another endless letter on 1st 
April : 

Heaven be thanked! I am really happy, and God knows what I've 
suffered! As I told you just now by telegram, your Ballo in maschera 
aroused fanatical enthusiasm and went very well. You will hear the news 
from other people besides, so, frankly and without fear of being vain- 
glorious, I can tell you the truth, that I was so pleased that I was moved to 
tears. Have the kindness, my Verdi, to write me just one line, so that I 
know you are not angry. Poor Wrong Head ! Let me know at least that you 
haven't abandoned me. 



318 THE MAN VERDI 

Still there was no reply, and he wrote again, in a pleading tone, after 
the second performance, two days later : 

Oh, Don Peppino! Don't be angry any more with your poor Wrong 
Head ! Write to me, for I really have need of a letter from you, to tell me 

that you don't hold anything against me. What could I do? That c 

Montuoro had put me in an embarrassing position. Be indulgent with 
him, too. ... Be graciously pleased to give my regards to Donna Peppina. 
She is truly an angel of goodness, but you are too cruel to me. Oh, Don 
Peppino ! Have the kindness to write to me — I need it so much. 

At length, at midnight on 4th April, he was able to write: 

Thank you, Don Peppino! So you aren't angry with me? I am so glad. 
Now I know that I have an angel in heaven who prays for me. 

Mariani was not yet forty. According to his own reckoning, since 
he always insisted that he was born in 1824, he was not yet thirty- 
seven. It is strange that on 5th July he could write to Stefano 
Golinelli: 1 'I shall go away to London, where an independent 
existence will bring me in enough to get along for the few years of 
life that remain to me.' He worried a good deal about his future, and 
there is this to be said for him: he was not well off; his salary at 
Genoa was only 3,600 lire a year, and out of this he often sent home 
money to his mother. Probably only Landoni, among his friends, 
knew how much trouble his relatives caused him; his sister Brada- 
mante wrote him begging letters, and in the past winter he had had 
to refuse to pay his brother's debts at Ravenna. There was good news 
on 7th July, when he wrote to Verdi: 'The municipality of Genoa has 
decided, by way of exception, that my pension shall be determined 
on the same terms and conditions as those of the other employees. . . . 
So my future is assured. In short, I shall not any more have to fear a 
miserable old age, for I'm assured, at least, of bread.' In spite of 
repeated entreaties from his friends at Bologna, he had refused to 
compete for the post of director of the Liceo Musicale: 'I suppose 
I've done the wrong thing as usual.' 

He agreed, however, to return to Bologna to conduct the autumn 
season of opera at the Teatro Comunale. On the way he stayed for a 
few days at Sant' Agata and marvelled that Verdi, busy composing 
Laforza del destino, could work amid all the bricklayers, carpenters 
and blacksmiths employed in rebuilding the house. 

Mariani complained often of the restricted musical resources of the 
Teatro Carlo Felice, which no longer satisfied him. There were 
certainly some serious shortcomings, as a letter to Golinelli of 20th 
December shows : 

Accustomed to the vigour, the brio, to that wave of sound that satisfies 

1 Piancastelli Collection. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 319 

one's soul, of the truly excellent Bolognese orchestra, the Genoese one 
seems enervated, feeble — so lifeless that it depresses me. Add to that the 
complete lack of double basses, the incompetence of some of the players 
of the principal instruments, the difference between the dead acoustics of 
this theatre and the sonority of the Teatro Comunale, and you will easily 
understand how disgusted I am by the ensemble I find again here. I seem 
to have a spinet under my fingers, and I am not exaggerating when I make 
the comparison between a spinet and an Erard grand piano, for such is the 
difference between this orchestra and that one. . . . Verdi writes to me from 
St Petersburg that he is happy and his new opera will be staged about the 
20th. 

Few of Mariani's letters to Verdi have survived from this period, but 
amicable correspondence certainly continued all through the com- 
poser's visits to Russia, France and England. Another letter to 
Golinelli of 5th June 1862 says: 

Verdi writes to me from London to say that he has prepared a room for 
me in his lodgings. It's a great temptation, and if I hadn't got to finish 
some short works I have on hand I should go there at once. 

Later in the month Verdi was back in Italy, and looking forward to 
seeing Mariani again: 

I've been some days in Italy and I've never written to you! You'll 
excuse me, won't you? I am on the train from Turin to Piacenza. I am 
bringing with me two fine guns bought in London from one of the leading 
gunsmiths: a carbine like Sir James Hudson's but perhaps finer, and a 
double-barrelled rifle on the Le Faucheux system. When are you coming 
to try them? 

Too much is made by Gatti of the occasions when Mariani failed to 
appear at Sant' Agata, after pressing invitations. There were many 
visits, besides those mentioned in Verdi's surviving letters. Even 
though Mariani had to be asked not to bring Sir James Hudson, in 
the summer of 1862, because the house was in disorder, the servants 
ill and poor Loulou dead, he was asked to come himself for a few 
days, and did so. 

5th August 1862: 

Poor Loulou ! The news of his death has immensely upset me. He was 
your faithful companion, your friend, your affection, your pastime. In 
short, I considered him a part of yourself, and therefore I tenderly loved 
him. 

19th August 1862: 

How good you are ! I '11 pay you a visit at the beginning of September. 
I '11 stay only one day, so as not to vex you. 

In 1863 Mariani received the offer of an engagement in Peru, and 
at about the same time learned that Bagier, the new director of the 



320 THE MAN VERDI 

Theatre Italien in Paris, was in search of a conductor. The idea of this 
latter position attracted him, but he hesitated and prevaricated as 
usual, and asked the advice of Verdi, now become a veritable father- 
figure in his life. The negotiations concerning this projected appoint- 
ment fall in a period from which Verdi's letters survive, but not 
Mariani's. In this episode the actions and reactions of both men were 
highly characteristic. 

Verdi was on the spot, in Paris, and prepared to do what he could 
to secure the appointment for Mariani. He warned him, however, 
that there would be other aspirants, also with influential friends, and 
that while there were financial advantages the position offered no 
security: at any time Bagier could dismiss all his employees, and if 
that happened all the years of hard work at Genoa would have gone 
for nothing. 

It appears that, in spite of what he had written two years earlier 
about his pension rights at Genoa, Mariani was still uncertain of his 
position; probably he had received only verbal assurances, but 
nothing in writing. Verdi, on 12th April, told him how to deal with 
the municipal authorities : 

Dear Mariani, 

No more hesitation then! Write resolutely but very calmly and politely 
to the municipality, asking either for the pension or for your release. And 
if you want to achieve any useful result, keep it a secret. Consult a solicitor 
and write in such a way that the municipality is obliged to give you an 
answer. Take note that the municipality will believe that your application 
is only the whim of a moment or a boyish trick, and won't reply, and that 
is why I say that you must find a way of getting an answer of some sort. 
I repeat: don't hesitate any longer, and think how hesitation has caused 
you to lose ten of the best years of your life. If the municipality guarantees 
you the pension I advise you to stay where you are. If not, make up your 
mind, as you think best, either to go to Lima or to aspire to the post at the 
Theatre Italien in Paris. The post in Paris cannot guarantee you a pension, 
and its only advantage is that of living in a great musical centre. The pay 
would be (if you take the pianoforte rehearsals as well) 9,000 or 10,000 
francs (I believe). Employment for seven months : about four performances 
a week. I shall be staying in Paris all this month and towards the end of the 
month Bagier is due back from Madrid to draw up the contract and settle 
everything. In the meantime, order your affairs so as to be able to write to 
me definitely 

either that you are staying at Genoa, 

or that you are going to Lima, 

or that you aspire to come to Paris. 
In this last case I will then tell you what else you have to do. 

Hardly was this admirably practical and most helpful letter in the 
post when information reached Verdi that caused him at once to 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 321 

stiffen and withdraw. The following note is dated 14th April, in 
Mariani's hand, on the back : 

I know that you have approached others about the post at the Theatre 
Italien in Paris (you were wrong to do so) and I know that Bagier has made 
proposals to you concerning this. You will do what you please, but from 
this moment I declare that I don't come into the affair any more and if 
you value my friendship a little you will not make use of my name in this 
connection, and much less will you speak of the present letter. 

The effect of this, with its warning of a possible breach in their 
friendship, seems to have been to paralyse Mariani's initiative 
completely. Three weeks later he wrote to Verdi asking what he was 
to say to one Toffoli, probably Bagier' s agent, with whom he had 
been in touch about the Parisian appointment. Verdi replied on 
5th May: 

You really are a Wrong Head ! You expect me to tell you how to reply 
to Toffoli?! ! You absolutely do not understand me, you have never under- 
stood me, and you know nothing at all about business. When I told you 
that from the moment you had dealings with Toffoli I did not wish to 
enter into this bungled affair any more, you ought, without hesitation, to 
have either accepted or rejected those proposals. That is all I can say, and 
I say it again. 

Bagier's return to Paris was long delayed. By the end of the month, 
no doubt after lengthy explanations and protestations from Mariani, 
Verdi was mollified and again willing to be helpful. Some negotiations 
of his own concerning the Theatre Italien had come to nothing; if 
Mariani really wished to secure the post of conductor at that theatre 
he needed to take early action: 'I can no longer be any use to you, 
except by a word to Bagier when he returns. It would be necessary for 
you to authorize me to do that, by a letter that could be shown. If 
that suits you I am at your service.' The storm had blown over; the 
atmosphere was clear again. The old cordiality returned, and the old 
commissions : 

The sherry is still on the high seas? Escudier seems also to have sent a 
case of wine to Genoa, addressed to 'Chevalier Mariani, for Verdi'. If so 
please collect it, paying the charges, for which I will reimburse you. We'll 
drink these wines at Sant' Agata, where you'll come, I hope, as soon as 
I 'm back. 

The letter ends with a request for information about a small steam- 
engine of about four horsepower, suitable for working a pump at 
Sant' Agata. 

When Bagier finally returned to Paris Verdi found himself, after all, 
unable to put in a good word for his friend, for reasons that are not 



322 THE MAN VERDI 

clear. Mariani had not, therefore, been so very unwise in approaching 
Toffoli as well. 

The end of this episode is reflected in Verdi's last three letters from 
Paris : 

10th July: 

In spite of myself, I cannot help you at all with Bagier, and at Sant' 
Agata I '11 tell you why. Meanwhile, if you are set on coming to Paris, 
you can put your terms to Toffoli. Come to a clear understanding, and 
don't harbour any illusions. I'm sorry I can't help you at all, but it's 
against my will. 

15th July: 

I have received your letter and seen Toffoli. Your request is all right, 
and is just. Hold firm for Paris only. That is advice given inter nos and as 
a friend, for I wouldn't like to see you running like a mountebank from 
Paris to Madrid, and vice versa. Reflect, however, on the safe position you 
are leaving; here you will be insecure always, and Paris is not entirely a 
bed of roses. Finally, if Bagier agrees — good; if he doesn't (don't despair) — 
better. There is my opinion, frankly and clearly ! 

20th July: 

I leave tomorrow evening (Tuesday). I shall be at the Hotel Trombetta, 
Turin, about midnight on Wednesday. I shall stay at Turin for two days 
and at 4 a.m. on Saturday I shall be at Sant' Agata. Does that inspire you, 
perchance? It would be a good idea to take your bag and come to Turin, 
and we'll leave for Sant' Agata together. You can help me unpack my 
trunks. . . . 

Thank Providence on your bended knees that you didn't allow yourself 
to be taken in at Paris ! 

Very few letters, either of Verdi or Mariani, survive from 1864. 
The established pattern of their relationship, however, does not 
change. Part of February was spent by Verdi and Giuseppina at 
Genoa. In this year too Mariani entered into negotiations for the post 
of conductor at the Theatre Italien in Paris, only to decide again to 
stay where he was. On 20th July Verdi asked Leon Escudier to 
advise Bagier to give up the idea of producing Aroldo in Paris: 
'Without Mariani that opera is impossible.' 

The days of the first performance of Aroldo at Rimini are referred 
to in an important letter published, probably from a loose draft or 
copy at Sant' Agata, in an editorial footnote to the Copialettere. 1 
This was the reply to a lost letter of Mariani' s, in which he had 
mentioned that a story was circulating, according to which Verdi 
had described him to General Cialdini as 'a fine conductor who 
overdoes all his tempi '. Taking this for a complaint, Verdi explained : 

1 pp. 256-7. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 323 

The last time I saw General Cialdini I said to him, among other things : 
'How is the theatre going at Bologna?' 

' So-so ; but the orchestra does well.' 

'I don't doubt it — under Mariani's baton.' 

'However, the other evening I heard the overture to Semiramide and 
was not too pleased; I thought the tempi were rushed.' 

'That's quite possible: Mariani has that tendency, to give more brio 
to the pieces.' And then (jokingly): 'It's better so — it's all over sooner! 
For the rest, I should have this tendency to speed things up myself if I were 
a conductor; Costa has it, who is one of the greatest conductors in Europe.' 

Those, and no others, were the words about music exchanged by the 
general and myself. Cest le ton qui fait la chanson, says the proverb, and 
the simplest things take on another aspect when they are reported; the 
proof of which lies in the contradiction in the phrases referred to: ' A fine 
conductor, who overdoes all his tempi.'' But, by God, if you are a fine 
conductor you can't overdo your tempi, and if you overdo all your tempi 
you can't be a. fine conductor. People with a bit of experience of the world 
take no notice of such silly stories, and to give you proof of that I'll tell 
you one that is told of yourself! One evening when we were together at 
Rimini, among a lot of people talking about music, and my music in 
particular, you said : ' But this is music that won't last. Talk to me rather 
about that of Meyerbeer, etc., etc., and then we're in agreement.' Well! I 
have never mentioned this to you, and this is the first time I have spoken 
of it, to prove to you that one should take no notice. 

This is undated in the Copialettere. Mantovani, 1 however, after 
quoting it, says: 'And this letter of December 1870 was the last that 
Verdi wrote to Mariani.' This is a mistake that has led Gatti, Zoppi 
and others astray, and caused them not only to attach undue signifi- 
cance to this letter in relation to the quarrel with Mariani, but also to 
misunderstand what Verdi says. For they state as a fact that Mariani 
at Rimini did make this comparison between the music of Verdi and 
Meyerbeer, whereas the sense of the letter is that Verdi had heard 
the story but attached no importance to it, knowing the way things 
got twisted out of recognition in the mouths of idle or ill-natured 
gossips. There is no reason to believe, with Zoppi, 2 that after brood- 
ing over these words for thirteen years he ' spat them back in Mariani's 
face'. The letter was actually written early in December 1864, as is 
shown by Mariani's reply from Bologna, dated 6th December of that 
year: 3 

In an hour's time I leave for Genoa. Thank you for your last kind 
letter; please believe that I related that silly story for no other reason than 
to let you know of it. I know how much you love me and I know the 
nobility of your character. 

1 p. 44. 2 p. 144. 

3 No one is more confused in this matter than Abbiati, who corrects the date of 
Verdi's letter in his second volume (p. 428) and then reprints it under the wrong date in 
his third volume (p. 434). 



324 THE MAN VERDI 

For the rest, I don't remember having said that which you bring to my 
attention, concerning an expression of mine at Rimini, when we were 
there. 

It doesn't seem possible that I should have pronounced such words, 
since they do not express what I feel. If I had said them I should have been 
mad, or stupid, and as I've never been that, someone has decided to 
attribute to me things I wouldn't even wish to hear, from anyone, and I 
would permit nobody to blaspheme in that way. 

In this autumn, after an interval of two years, Mariani had returned 
to Bologna to conduct the season of opera at the Teatro Comunale. 
During this season Teresa Stolz had made her very successful debut 
there, in Ernani and William Tell. It has been almost universally 
assumed that the love affair between them began at this time. Before 
we consider whether this could possibly have been the case, it will be 
necessary to explore, rather more thoroughly than has been hitherto 
done, Teresa Stolz's career, which can be reconstructed, like Giusep- 
pina Strepponi's, from the theatrical papers of the day. First, how- 
ever, a few words about her origins. 

Teresa Stolz, born at Elbekosteletz in Bohemia on 5th June 1834, 
came of a very musical family. Five of her eight brothers and sisters 
studied at the Prague Conservatoire and became professional 
musicians. They included the twin sisters, Francesca (Fanny) and 
Ludmila (Lidia), both sopranos, who immortalized themselves by 
their relations with the composer Luigi Ricci. The twins, born on 
8th May 1827, and thus seven years older than Teresa, left the Con- 
servatoire in 1843 and made their way to Trieste, where Ricci had 
been established since 1837. Lidia made her debut in a small part at 
the Teatro Grande during the Carnival season of 1844. The twins 
were probably identical, and Ricci seems to have fallen in love with 
both of them at first sight. In this most difficult situation he obtained 
a year's leave of absence, beginning in April 1844, from the authorities 
at Trieste, and took the sisters, with other singers, to Odessa. He 
wrote for them an opera, La Solitaria delle Asturie, first performed 
at Odessa on 20th February 1845. The story of Ricci and the Stolz 
twins would have been a wonderful subject for Richard Strauss and 
Hofmannsthal. Florimo was told by Federico Ricci, Luigi's younger 
brother, that at Odessa the composer and the twin sisters lived in 
apparently separate lodgings, which were connected, however, by a 
door concealed by a wardrobe from which the back had been removed. 
This led to most comical and embarrassing scenes, as when, while 
Ricci was receiving visitors, one of the girls emerged suddenly from 
the wardrobe. . . . The twins at this time were only seventeen, and 
Ricci nearly forty years of age. From Odessa they moved on to 
Constantinople before returning to Trieste. In the autumn season of 
1845 and the Carnival season of 1846 Fanny and Lidia Stolz sang at 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 325 

the Teatro Grande, Trieste, and afterwards at Milan, Cremona and 
elsewhere. By a strange chance, they were among the singers engaged 
at Copenhagen in the winter of 1847-8 under Mariani, and if the 
death of Christian VIII had not cut short the season they would have 
appeared in another opera by Ricci, // diavolo a quattro, which he 
was commissioned to write for them. After the revolution of 1848 
they were all back at Trieste. In 1849 Ricci married Lidia Stolz, but 
continued to live with both sisters. Lidia was the mother of the first 
of his two children, Adelaide, born on 1st December 1850, and 
Fanny was the mother of the second, Luigi, born on 27th December 
1852. . . . It comes as no surprise to learn that some years later the 
fell consequences of some earlier amorous adventures became 
apparent: Ricci went mad and died in Prague in 1859 of general 
paralysis. 

Such was the background of Teresa Stolz's early life. 

Teresa, destined to become the most famous member of the family, 
seemed at first to be the least gifted. Entering the Prague Conserva- 
toire in 1849, she studied under an Italian, Giovanni Battista Gordi- 
giani, until October 1851, when she was advised to give up hopes of 
becoming a singer. She returned discouraged to Elbekosteletz but in 
the next few years her voice developed strongly and she went back to 
Prague to study with Voitecha Cabouna. On 21st November 1855 she 
appeared in public at a concert at Zofine. After this she joined the 
irregular establishment at Trieste and had further lessons from Ricci. 
She sang at Trieste in a concert given by his pupils on 26th July 
1856, and in the following year made her operatic debut at Tints. The 
whole first phase of her career was spent in the most distant outposts 
of the far-flung Italian operatic empire. She appeared, like her sisters, 
at Odessa and Constantinople, and repeatedly at Tiflis. In 1863 she 
was hoping for an engagement at Milan: on 16th July the theatrical 
paper // Trovatore mocked at the idea that one who had been for 
five seasons the prima donna assoluta at Tiflis should aspire to appear 
in Milan, but on 20th December the same paper reported her 
'stupendous success' in // Trovatore at Nice. In February and March 
1864 she sang in Mose and Norma at Nice, and in April in Ernani at 
Grenada. On 9th July it was announced that she had been engaged 
for the autumn season at Bologna: 

Teresina Stolz, the young and already accomplished soprano prima 
donna, who gave such an excellent account of herself recently at Grenada, 
as earlier at Nice, has been engaged for the coming season at the Teatro 
Comunale, Bologna, and for Carnival and Lent 1864-5 at the Teatro 
Bellini, Palermo. 

It is already clear that Mariani did not 'discover' Teresa Stolz, at 
Trieste or anywhere else; nor was he responsible for her appearance 



326 



THE MAN VERDI 



at Bologna, as is so often stated or implied. She happened to be 
among the singers there, when he returned after two years' absence to 
conduct the autumn season. 

The following table, based on reports in the theatrical papers, 
shows the whole course of her career from the time of her debut in 
Italy up to the production of Aida at Milan in 1872. The first per- 
formances listed were generally followed by others, of course, up to 
the end of the season, the date of which is given where known. A 
capital M in the left-hand column indicates that Mariani was the 
conductor. A capital V indicates that the opera was staged under 
Verdi's supervision. 





10th Sept. 


1864 Spoleto 


Teatro Nuovo 


// Trovatore (2 perfs. 
only) 


M 


25th Oct. 


1864 Bologna 


Teatro Comunale 


Ernani 


M 


Nov. 


1864 Bologna 


Teatro Comunale 


William Tell 




Dec. 


1864 Palermo 


Teatro Bellini 


La Juive 




Feb. 


1865 Palermo 


Teatro Bellini 


La Vendetta Slava 
(Platania) 




Feb. 


1865 Palermo 


Teatro Bellini 


Rigoletto 




Mar. 


1865 Palermo 


Teatro Bellini 


Macbeth 




May 


1865 Florence 


Teatro Pagliano 


I Lombardi (4 perfs. 
only) 


M 


Aug. 


1865 Cesena 


Teatro Comunale 


William Tell 


M 


Aug. 


1865 Cesena 


Teatro Comunale 


Un Ballo in Maschera 




23rd Sept. 


1865 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


Giovanna d'Arco 




4th Nov. 


1865 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


Rebecca (Pisani, 1 
perf. only) 




18th Nov. 


1865 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


Lucrezia Borgia 




Dec. 


1865 Palermo 


Teatro Bellini 


I Vespri Siciliani 




Feb. 


1866 Palermo 


Teatro Bellini 


Parisina 




Mar. 


1866 Palermo 


Teatro Bellini 


William Tell 




2nd May 


1866 Reggio 
Emilia 




Robert le Diable 




Oct. 


1866 Treviso 


Teatro di Societa 


Un Ballo in Maschera 




Nov. 


1866 Treviso 


Teatro di Societa 


Lucrezia Borgia 




Nov. 


1866 Treviso 


Teatro di Societa 


Jone (Petrella) 




26th Dec. 


1866 Parma 


Teatro Regio 


La Juive 




9th Jan. 


1867 Parma 


Teatro Regio 


Robert le Diable 




Feb. 


1867 Parma 


Teatro Regio 


Un Ballo in Maschera 




20th Feb. 


1867 Parma 
(Season 


Teatro Regio 
ended 12th March) 


Norma 


M 


27th Oct. 


1867 Bologna 


Teatro Comunale 


Don Carlos 


M 


3rd Dec. 


1867 Bologna 


Teatro Comunale 


Un Ballo in Maschera 




26th Dec. 


1867 Rome 


Teatro Apollo 


Jone 




9th Feb. 


1868 Rome 


Teatro Apollo 


Don Carlos 






(Season ended 25th February) 




25th Mar. 


1868 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


Don Carlos 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 



327 



M 


May 


1868 Genoa 


Teatro Carlo Fe- 
lice 


Un Ballo in Maschera 




Aug. 


1868 Vicenza 


La Juive 




Aug. 


1868 Vicenza 




Un Ballo in Maschera 


M 


4th Oct. 


1868 Bologna 


Teatro Comunale 


La Juive 




26th Dec. 


1868 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


Don Carlos 


V 


27th Feb. 


1869 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


La Forza del Destino 




20th Mar. 


1869 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


Fieschi (Montuoro, 
two perfs. only) 




24th Apr. 


1869 Parma 


Teatro Regio 


Don Carlos 




July 


1869 Padua 


Teatro Nuovo 


Don Carlos 




Aug. 


1869 Vicenza 




La Forza del Destino 


M 22nd Aug. 


1869 Pesaro 


Teatro Rossini 


Rossini Commemora- 










tion (Stabat Mater, 










repeated 23rd Aug.) 




20th Sept. 


1869 Trieste 


Teatro Comunale 


Don Carlos 




17th Nov. 


1869 Trieste 


Teatro Comunale 


Robert le Diable 




26th Dec. 


1869 Turin 


Teatro Regio 


Giovanna di Napoli 
(Petrella) 




22nd Jan. 


1870 Turin 


Teatro Regio 


Don Carlos 




15th Mar. 


1870 Turin 


Teatro Regio 


II Favorito (Pedrotti) 


M 


17th July 


1870 Sinigaglia Teatro Fenice 


Don Carlos 




26th Dec. 


1870 Venice 


Teatro Fenice 


Don Carlos 




7th Feb. 


1871 Venice 


Teatro Fenice 


Ruy Bias (Marchetti) 




1st Apr. 


1871 Venice 


Teatro Fenice 


Linda d' Ispahan (Ma- 
lipiero) 




Aug. 


1871 Brescia 




Robert le Diable 




26th Dec. 


1871 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


La Forza del Destino 


V 


8th Feb. 


1872 Milan 


Teatro alia Scala 


Aida 



From this table we see that between her debut at Bologna in 
the autumn of 1864 and her reappearance there in Don Carlos three 
years later, Teresa Stolz sang under Mariani's direction only at 
Cesena, in August 1865. This combines with other negative evidence 
to suggest that there was in fact no close bond between them during 
this time. Singer and conductor could not be always together, but if 
they were in love they could surely have arranged things better than 
this. There is nothing to show that they met between engagements, 
and all that has been written about their living together at Genoa is 
based only on assumptions. 

Some initial attraction is possible enough, before Teresa Stolz went 
off to sing in Sicily and Mariani returned to Genoa. His letters at the 
turn of the year show him ill and melancholy, and Giuseppina, on 
3rd January 1865, wrote this to him: 

I have received your most welcome letter, written in an access, and 
excess, of sentimentalism — the result, perhaps, of some storm raised up 
by the blindfolded god. Let's hope that the pains, inflammation and ill 



328 THE MAN VERDI 

humour will have gone by now, thanks to the opportune arrival of a 
perfumed billet-doux to play the doctor. In case there is something posi- 
tively wrong, take little medicine and lead a very regular life, which is the 
best of all medicines. 

Verdi and I are growing old, but our health is good, and our hearts and 
heads are sound. Thank you for your good wishes, which we very sincerely 
and cordially reciprocate. It seems that we shall be coming to Genoa, but 
not just yet. Verdi or I will write and tell you when, on condition that you 
keep it secret, for callers as soon as we've arrived get in my way and give 
me the spleen. 

Permit me this suggestion : look after yourself, wear flannel over your 
intestines, talk little, sigh even less, and we shall find you well and lively 
as a cricket, ready for the joys of the Carnival. 

Most of February and early March were spent at Genoa. 

It is surprising to find Verdi writing in June to Escudier, confident, 
in spite of past experience, that he could persuade Mariani to go to 
Paris as conductor of the Theatre Italien : ' Why don't you try to get 
Mariani again? It's something I could arrange, if Bagier wishes. But 
see that no one interferes. If Bagier wants that, let him make equitable 
conditions ; I undertake to get them accepted. Then you will have a 
good conductor at last.' It is not clear why he now favoured an 
appointment he had thought undesirable for Mariani in 1863. 

In a letter of 2nd July Mariani suggested that he should visit Sant' 
Agata for advice. If he had done so punctually he would have been 
there at the same time as Escudier, with whom the Parisian appoint- 
ment could have been seriously discussed. But Mariani was detained 
at Genoa. 

One of the surprises of these letters is the discovery that Teresa 
Sauli Pallavicino, with whom, before and after his relations with 
Teresa Stolz, the conductor is supposed to have had a love affair, was 
a married woman. It is clear from Mariani's letters that her married 
name was Teresa Pallavicino Negrotto. She appears to have been a 
highly eccentric and emotionally unstable person. A crisis in her 
affairs was responsible for Mariani not coming at once to Sant' 
Agata: 

2nd July 1865: 

The poor Pallavicino family has suffered a most terrible misfortune. The 
daughter, Signora Teresa, who already had unexpectedly decided to return 
with her husband, has gone mad. All the family are with her in the country, 
at the house of Marchese Negrotto, the son-in-law. 

9th July 1865: 

An affair of the utmost importance to me prevents my departure, as I 
had intended, this evening, and I shall have to stay here a few days longer. 
... I'll tell you all about it by word of mouth, and you know that your 
poor Wrong Head is most capable of good deeds. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 329 

Giuseppina, ever sceptical where Mariani was concerned, commented 
on 31st July in a letter to Giuseppe De Amicis at Genoa: 'Mariani 
was here and imparted to the telling of the story you mention in your 
letter the most sentimental and philanthropic colouring imaginable. 
For my part, I think that a little confiteor would be in place in the 
mouths of all the characters in that quasi-tragedy. If they do recite 
it, I pray God to forgive them, and set them on the right road.' 

Mariani' s letters from Cesena, in late July and August, include the 
first brief references to Teresa Stolz. In Un ballo in maschera: 'La 
Stolz, the prima donna, did very well indeed, and so did Pandolfini, 
the baritone.' The Parisian project was discussed in several letters. 
Bagier again wished to combine the appointment at the Theatre 
Italien with the direction of a season of opera in Madrid and offered 
50,000 francs for this. Mariani was tempted, but wished first to have 
Verdi's approval : ' I shall do nothing, settle nothing, without advising 
you and without your advice. You are all I have in the world, and it 
is certain that I owe every satisfaction and the contentment of my life 
to your benevolence, to the kindness you squander upon me. My 
Maestro! I shall always be your faithful servant.' The other subject 
of these letters is the epidemic of cholera that raged in the area. He 
describes the arrival of a train full of cholera victims from Ancona; a 
man vomiting out of the window while his sister lay dying on the floor 
of the carriage, without attention, guards being posted to keep people 
at a distance. Mariani had the crazy idea that water-melons were anti- 
choleraic : ' I continue my usual way of life, eating melons and fruit. 
I feel very well, and in any case, if cholera gets me, you will write my 
Requiem Mass. I tell you the truth: I would most gladly die so that 
Italy and the whole world might have such a fine present from you. 
A Requiem Mass by Verdi! Enough of that — we shall see what 
happens.' 

But it was not for Mariani that Verdi was to write his Requiem 
Mass. 

This time Mariani got as far as going to Paris to see Bagier. But 
again nothing was settled. It is truly a great pity that so many of 
Verdi's letters from these later years have been lost or destroyed. 
One would like to know what he wrote to produce the following reply, 
from Genoa, on 26th September : 

On my return from Paris I found here your tremendous letter, which I 
read with resigned devotion, since in it you tell me some home truths that 
I too feel in the depths of my heart, and I wish I hadn't provided occasion 
for them to be told me. It's true! Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima 
culpa ! 

Batti, batti, o bel Maestro ! There really was a masochistic element in 
Mariani's nature. Then, having admitted his fault, he begins to 



330 THE MAN VERDI 

shuffle and excuse himself: 'But, believe me, my Maestro, from what 
I can gather, this year my having delayed coming to Sant' Agata is 
not of moment, for I have come to no agreement with Bagier.' 
Another conductor had already been engaged. Clearly, however, this 
had not happened until Bagier had despaired of getting a decisive 
answer from Mariani, after several months. 

After some rather confused negotiations with both Perrin, director 
of the Opera, and Bagier, Verdi himself had decided to go to Paris 
in the coming winter. 

During his visit to the French capital Mariani had attended two 
performances of UAfricaine at the Opera, and his impressions, as 
reported in the letter of 26th September, are of great interest, and 
astonishing in view of his reputation as a fanatical admirer of 
Meyerbeer : 

Musically speaking, it's a poor thing; staged, however, stupendously, 
and that is why I say I have seen UAfricaine, since it's more to be seen 
than heard. You too will see it, and in this you will be of my opinion. 
Then, if I must tell you the truth, I found the orchestral playing cold, and 
one can hear that it was rehearsed by old Fetis, called specially from 
Brussels, and the French say that the tempi of UAfricaine are old-time 
tempi. . . . For the rest, those sixteen bars in unison, that they always have 
to repeat, in the last scene of the fifth act, are truly stupid as a composition, 
and that's the only thing that is moderately well played, for being a unison 
passage for the stringed instruments, which are good, especially those ten 
violoncellos, reinforced by clarinets and bassoons, it produced a fine 
effect. When you see that passage of sixteen bars, to which all the papers 
have given such importance, you will laugh. It's really a case of wishing to 
make famous what is in reality mediocre in the extreme. By God ! It seems 
to me that in Paris very little is needed to make an effect. 

Coming back to myself, I'll tell you, my Maestro, that I was only sorry 
not to have accepted the Parisian offer when I was told that you were going 
there next winter, and that you will be at the Opera and the Theatre 
Italien. You can't imagine the sorrow I felt for having to stay at Genoa 
without you, and knowing you to be in Paris without me will render me 
desolate. But believe me, my Maestro, this year it was impossible to come 
to agreement with Bagier. ... So don't abandon your poor Wrong Head, 
and be sure that all you do for me I will accept with my eyes closed. 

This very autumn he was to conduct UAfricaine at Bologna and arouse 
enormous enthusiasm in his audiences by those same sixteen bars in 
unison which he had ridiculed to Verdi. Towards the end of the year 
he wrote to Lucca x of the 'stupendous music' of Meyerbeer's opera. 
Verdi in Paris signed the contract for Don Carlos and returned in 
March 1866 to Sant' Agata. In Giuseppina's letter-books we find 
evidence of further dissatisfaction with the way his operas were 

1 Piancastelli Collection, letter of 22nd December 1865. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 331 

performed at Genoa. There is the draft, subsequently cancelled, of a 
ferocious letter to Ricordi in May: 

I believe that La forza del destino would gain by being sung and not 
barked, as it was by that pack of dogs who are howling at Genoa ! What do 
you say? Do you think that if it had been one of Lucca's operas he would 
have allowed it to be given in those conditions, and so near Milan? Never! 
Never ! Lucca is a bourgeois publisher, who lowers himself even to look 
after the merchandise he has acquired. For shame! How prosaic! An 
aristocratic publisher lets them be massacred, murmuring haughtily: 

Non curiam di lor ma guar da epassa. 
What a difference ! 

Then a milder rebuke for Mariani: 

Permit me to ask, en passant, sans rancune, and so that you don't think 
me too much of a blockhead : If the company of singers who had to per- 
form La forza del destino was so bad, why did you yourself show such 
interest on your impresario's account, even going so far as to ask Ricordi 
for moderation in the fees? Are my operas created, then, to be thrown to 
the dogs, just as you please, as a pis allerl Ah. ... I was forgetting — my 
name ends in i. 

Mariani took evasive action, reporting the successful performance of 
another work, in the course of a short visit to Bologna. Giuseppina 
replied, on 13th May: 

Verdi, as you can imagine, is very busy with the opera for Paris, for 
which reason he begs you to excuse him if he does not reply directly to your 
letter from Bologna. ... He says that if the Inno delle Nazioni was a success 
at Bologna he is glad, without being surprised, and that not on account of 
the quality of the music but because of the good ensemble of performers. 
He would have preferred, however, that such an ensemble, and all the 
elements necessary, should have been got together for La forza del 
destino at Genoa. . . . Although the orchestra can perform miracles on its 
own account, it can't sing, paint the scenery, make the costumes, etc. In 
the first production of such an opera, and others of that sort, everything 
must work together to form a homogeneous whole. 

For years now Mariani had been in search of a suitable home for 
Verdi at Genoa. He found it at length in the Palazzo Sauli, the 
property of his friend the Marchesa Luisa Sauli Pallavicino, the 
mother of Teresa Pallavicino Negrotto. The whole upper floor of 
this, the piano mobile, would be vacant from the autumn. No finer 
choice could possibly have been made. A splendid building by Alessi, 
situated on the hill of Carignano, amid gardens with cypresses, 
cedars, palms and magnolias, with wide views over the port and the 
shining sea, it was isolated and peaceful, and yet within a few minutes' 
walk of the centre of the city. In recent years other buildings have 



332 THE MAN VERDI 

encroached on the grounds, the view towards the sea has been cut off, 
but the tragic bombed palazzo, amid its wildly overgrown gardens, 
casts a spell even today. The address remains what it was in Verdi's 
time: Via San Giacomo 13. 

Palazzo Sauli, between the wars, was used as offices by the Societa 
Elettrica Term, and the interior entirely altered, so that it is no longer 
possible to envisage, from the building itself, its internal aspect when 
Verdi, Giuseppina and Mariani were its occupants. In a letter written 
after the breach, quoted by Luzio, Giuseppina has a remark about 
Mariani having 'spontaneously, not to say arbitrarily, taken posses- 
sion' of his apartment, which he had then to be asked to leave. 
Zoppi, who has drawn some largely erroneous conclusions from 
information conveyed in the inventory of Mariani's effects, is 
incredulous and indignant at Giuseppina's remark. 'But is it not 
known,' he asks, 'has it not been printed by all the biographers, 
that the Verdis went to live in that villa in 1866, at the suggestion and 
with the intermediation of Mariani, who had already been renting 
rooms there for years?' x The answer is that all this is indeed stated 
or implied by many biographers, including Gatti, but that none of 
them has taken any steps to find out where Mariani lived before this, 
and they have all assumed, quite wrongly, that he was already 
installed in Palazzo Sauli before Verdi decided to go there. Mariani's 
correspondence makes quite clear that something of the sort described 
by Giuseppina did take place. 

Another most misleading assumption is that Teresa Stolz was also 
living at Genoa at this time. Opinion is divided as to precisely where 
she stayed. Gatti, probably on the evidence of Maria Cortesi 
Schnitzer's letter to the editor of // Lavoro in 1929, says she lived in 
the nearby Palazzo Corallo, by the bridge of Carignano. Zoppi and 
most Italian writers follow Gatti in this. Francis Toye, following 
Belviglieri's article and ignoring Maria Cortesi Schnitzer's protest, 
says Teresa Stolz actually lived with Mariani in Palazzo Sauli. This 
view of things still prevails among English writers and a few minor 
Italian ones. All the biographers present the picture of Verdi and 
Giuseppina, Mariani and Teresa Stolz, living on the most intimate 
terms, almost like a single family, at Genoa in 1866. But this is 
absolutely impossible. 

Our table of the career of Teresa Stolz in the Italian theatres shows 
her singing at Palermo during the first three months of the year and 
at Reggio Emilia in May. Then there is a gap of about five months 
before she reappears at Treviso in October. This gap is accounted for 
by the war with Austria. Verdi himself, during this time, was first in 
Paris and then at Sant' Agata, working on Don Carlos, until on 5th 
July he came to Genoa. By 3rd August, having failed to obtain release 

1 p. 376. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 333 

from his contract with the Opera, he was back in France, where he 
remained for the whole of the rest of the year. He was thus at Genoa 
for just less than one month, at the height of the war, during which 
Teresa Stolz, an Austrian subject, cannot possibly have been in Italy. 

There are no further references, so far, in Mariani's letters, to the 
woman with whom he is supposed to have been having a love affair. 
There is a total lack of any sort of friendly greetings to the Verdis 
from her, such as might have been expected if they were all already 
on intimate terms. 

During the short stay at Genoa it was finally arranged for the new 
apartment in Palazzo Sauli to be got ready for the following winter. 

An entry made in Giuseppina's letter-book in Paris on 27th 
September begins : 

Alas ! That 's how it is ! Put yourself out on your friends' behalf, look 
for an apartment, find it, see that everything runs comme sur les roulettes, 
send a booklet of measurements, and silk-twist for matching colours, give 
orders to the servant to dust the furniture, so that it doesn't deteriorate, 
in short, go to endless trouble. . . . And then? And then find you've done it 
all only for ingrates! Thus, perhaps, a certain Mariani, unjustly called 
Wrong Head by Verdi, will have muttered. If so, let the lamentations of 
Jeremiah cease, and learn that if you have sent me a booklet of measure- 
ments, I am disposed, in an outburst of gratitude, to send you a volume 
of thanks. 

He deserved no less. Out of twenty-one letters sent to Paris during 
the rehearsals of Don Carlos, eighteen are addressed to Giuseppina 
and are concerned almost entirely with Palazzo Sauli and its decora- 
tion and furnishing. This is another batch of letters that really has to 
be seen to be believed. In endless detail, and at astonishing length, 
Mariani provided every scrap of information that could conceivably 
be useful. The 'booklet of measurements ' mentioned by Giuseppina 
was a letter of twenty-three pages, dated 9th-12th September, con- 
taining the description and plans, with all the measurements, of 
forty-nine different rooms, corridors, doors, staircases, etc. 

Some extracts from the letters to Giuseppina will make clear the 
situation in Palazzo Sauli. Mariani uses the word 'mezzarie', derived 
from Genoese dialect, for that part of the building he proposed him- 
self to inhabit; sometimes he calls it the 'mezzanine' but that, as we 
shall see, is misleading. A Signor Tuvo had been his predecessor in 
these rooms. 

9th September: 

As for the mezzarie, I repeat that I need only four or five rooms, includ- 
ing the servant's room and the kitchen. You will be able to furnish the 
remainder for your friends, if they come, and I shall like that, because it 
will seem as if I have a large apartment at my disposition. 



334 THE MAN VERDI 

11th November: 

The Signori Pallavicini are still in the country and will not be returning 
until towards the end of December. As Tuvo is leaving, that palazzo will 
be left wholly uninhabited, so if you and the Maestro permit I think it 
would be as well, as soon as everything is in order, if I began to have my 
things moved in. . . . Further, I must tell you, my Signora Peppina, that, 
hoping you would be returning in December, I have given up the apart- 
ment I am living in at present. 

28th November: 

I have agreed with the person who is taking over my little apartment to 
let him have it from the fifth of next month, but the mezzarie cannot be 
ready on the fifth of next month, since it has been necessary to whitewash 
the walls and varnish the floors, which were in a very bad state. ... So I 
shall have to have all my things carried for the time being into the gran 
salone of the appartamento nobile, and keep them there until I can have 

them carried upstairs As I told you in my last letter, I shall only occupy 

in the mezzanine an entrance hall, another room (of which I shall make my 
little drawing-room) and the bedroom. These three rooms can't be separ- 
ated. Then there'll be another one which will absolutely have to be joined 
to mine, as there's no other way of getting into it. Thus, then, my little 
apartment (if you and the Maestro agree) could consist of an entrance hall, 
a little drawing-room, the bedroom, which would serve also as my study, 
and another room to the left of the entrance hall, which I could keep at 
the disposal of my friends. I '11 put my servant to sleep in a little room 
attached to the kitchen of the mezzanine. In this division of things one 
room would remain free, wholly independent. . . . But, I repeat, I shall 
settle nothing without your consent, which you will give me only on your 
return. So for now I'll put myself in two rooms, with their entrance hall, 
and that's enough. If then you and the Maestro think fit to let me have all 
the mezzarie, as Signor Tuvo had, I'll pay you 600 francs rent annually, 
as he paid, otherwise I couldn't accept it. I tell you again, my Signora 
Peppina, it's such an honour for me to be able to have my nest under 
your roof, to be able to live in such a pleasant situation, and to be the 
guardian of Verdi's house, that truly I don't know how to repay you, in 
gratitude for the favour you have wished to squander on me. So, my 
Signora Peppina, we're agreed. 

A good many of Gatti's and, particularly, Zoppi's illusions are 
destroyed by these passages. We can see now how Palazzo Sauli was 
divided among its inhabitants. The proprietress, the Marchesa 
Luisa Sauli Pallavicino, retained the ground floor, where some 
members, at least, of her family lived. The whole of the rest of the 
building, consisting of the appartamento nobile and the mezzarie, was 
rented from her by Verdi, for 3,700 lire a year. 1 There is no sign in 
Palazzo Sauli of any rooms on a mezzanine level, between the two 

1 Giuseppina's letter-book, 29th November 1866: 'Wrote to Mariani, and sent 4,000 
francs, 3,700 of which to pay the rent and the rest to remain at our disposition.' 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 335 

main floors, and since Mariani's luggage was to be taken upstairs 
from the appartamento nobile, the first floor, it is clear that the 
mezzarie were the series of low rooms on the attic level, distinguish- 
able in photographs as a row of small windows at the top of the 
building. Mariani's 'nest' was, in fact, a comparatively small and 
humble one, immediately under the roof. It is important to note that 
he was Verdi's sub-tenant. The final arrangement was that he should 
pay 400 lire a year for the rooms he had suggested in his letter of 
28th November, the rest of the mezzarie being retained by Verdi for 
the use of his guests. This explains the statement in the inventory of 
Mariani's effects that when the seals were removed from the third 
door, on the left as one entered, it was found locked on the other side, 
since it led to rooms occupied by Verdi. It led actually to his spare 
bedroom in the attic storey. 

On 9th December Mariani announced: 'I rise from bed, after 
sleeping for the first time in your future residence, the enchanting 
Palazzo Sauli in Carignano.' Soon he had the joy — it was no less for 
him — of again fetching and carrying for Verdi. In the new year the 
furniture began to arrive from Paris: 'Thank God, thirteen cases are 
already in the house. They arrived the day before yesterday. I at once 
got busy. I ran to the director of the customs, to the town hall; all 
due formalities were completed and yesterday, towards the evening, 
your thirteen cases came out of the customs, without paying any 
dues, either to the Government or the municipality.' Eight more were 
to follow. 'Will the other cases be long delayed? The fact is, I am 
enjoying myself and it's a real satisfaction to me to be able to serve 
my Maestro and my Signora Peppina.' He saw to everything. He 
installed the billiard-table; he laid in supplies of fuel for the kitchen. 
'The beds are all in order,' he wrote on 23rd February, 'for which I 
have the new linen ; only blankets are lacking, but I can get those at 
any time.' He supplied a list of sailing dates of ships from Nice to 
Genoa. Early in March he was almost ecstatic with happiness at the 
idea of their arrival, and on the 14th was able to welcome them to 
their new home. 

Gino Monaldi, in half a dozen publications since 1898, tells how 
Mariani had accompanied Verdi to Paris for the production of Don 
Carlos and comforted him afterwards for the relative failure of the 
opera: 'I'll have it performed and conduct it myself at Bologna, and 
then we shall see.' This is seen to be simply untrue, since Mariani 
was not in Paris with Verdi. Variants of the story are given by many 
later writers, including Mantovani, Gatti and Zoppi. Gatti, in his 
first edition, followed as usual by Zoppi, sends not only Mariani 
but also Teresa Stolz to Paris, at Verdi's invitation. As our table 
shows, she was singing at the time at Parma. Gatti himself, in the 
revision of his work, became aware of this, from a letter from Verdi 



336 THE MAN VERDI 

in Paris to Ferrarini, the conductor at Parma, asking for information 
about the Bohemian singer. So the passage about the trip to Paris is 
deleted in Gatti's second edition, although by an oversight it remains 
in the analytical index, under Mariani's name. It is a pity Gatti did 
not give us the whole text of the letter to Ferrarini, otherwise 
unknown. It seems obvious that Verdi had never yet met or heard 
Teresa Stolz. 

Even while Mariani was settling himself and his belongings in 
Palazzo Sauli he had been discussing in correspondence with Cesare 
Dallolio, a member of the municipal council of Bologna, the possi- 
bility of removal to that city, as permanent director of the Liceo 
Musicale and the Teatro Comunale — the old project that had been 
revived several times since 1860. It seems that he had recently been 
given an increase of salary, from the 3,600 lire, less 1\ per cent for 
the pension fund, mentioned in earlier letters: 'My salary here is 
5,000 francs a year. I am a civic employee, with corresponding 
pension rights, and I already have fourteen years and seven months' 
service. . . . Besides this, I am maestro di cappella of the cathedral of 
Sant' Ambrogio, for which I get another 600 francs a year.' Typical 
of his thinking, at once ingenuous and tortuous, is the argument in 
these letters that secrecy was necessary, because the municipality of 
Genoa had been very good to him, and if they got wind of the 
proposal that he should go to Bologna, they might so load him with 
favours that he would find it impossible to leave. 

The spring of 1867 was spent by Verdi and Giuseppina in Palazzo 
Sauli, though there were frequent excursions to Sant' Agata. Mariani's 
letters recommence after their final removal to the country for the 
summer. We now have further news of the proprietors of Palazzo 
Sauli: 

6th July: 

The Pallavicino family left on the first of the month and are again in 
trouble. Their daughter ran away to Paris. She left one day before her 
mother, whom she awaited at Turin, and from there continued the journey 
with her to Paris. She left with only the clothes she was wearing, without 
money, and in despite of her husband, who is beside himself with anger. 
She did not manage to take even a handkerchief with her. Poor Signora 
Luisa! She certainly won't enjoy her trip to Paris. 

17th July: 

The Pallavicino family wrote to me from Paris, and as you can imagine 
their stay there is disturbed by the incubus of the daughter who incon- 
siderately played one of her tricks. God grant that everything may be 
settled this time too, but in any case it's a nasty business. 

Now Mariani really was to go to Paris with Verdi, and to hear 
Don Carlos at the Opera. The letter of 17th July continues: 'We shall 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 337 

see you there, if you are still disposed to betake yourself, with your 
wife of course, to Paris. It will be a real joy to your poor, faithful 
Wrong Head to make that journey in your company, all the more since 
I feel in better health, so that I shall be crazier than ever.' 

In an obituary notice of Teresa Stolz in Ricordi's periodical 
Musica e Musicisti for 15th September 1902 it is stated that someone 
pointed her out to Verdi as a suitable interpreter of the role of 
Elisabeth for the first Italian performances of Don Carlos at Bologna, 
and that on being offered the part she went to Paris, heard the opera 
three times and then telegraphed to Ricordi: 'I accept.' The essential 
truth of this is confirmed by an item of news in the Gazzetta Musicale 
di Milano for 4th August 1867; 'Signora Teresina Stolz has arrived 
back at Milan from Paris, where she went to hear Don Carlos' A 
fortnight later the Gazzetta announced: 'The illustrious Maestro 
Verdi has left Genoa for Paris, in company with Maestro Cav. 
Angelo Mariani.' This is in accordance with what Verdi wrote to 
Camille Du Locle on 16th August: 'On Monday morning I shall be 
in Paris with my wife. With us will be my friend Mariani, who wants 
to hear Don Carlos. So if there is a performance on Monday evening, 
please keep an orchestral stall for him, in a good position. He needs 
to hear well and see well, so it would be best if it were not too near 
the orchestra.' The fact that Teresa Stolz, before accepting the 
engagement to sing in Don Carlos at Bologna, went independently 
to Paris and back, only just before Verdi and Mariani did the same, 
very strongly supports the view that they were not all living together 
'almost like a single family'. Mariani's letters to Ricordi x show that 
he was initially in favour of another singer, Antonietta Fricci, for 
the role, going so far as to declare that one of her legs alone was worth 
the whole of Teresa Stolz. This is not exactly the language of a lover. 

It becomes more and more clear that the accepted chronology of 
the relations between Verdi, Mariani and Teresa Stolz. based as it is 
on pure surmise, is in need of drastic revision. There is no evidence 
at all, up to this time, that Mariani was in love with Teresa Stolz, or 
that Verdi even knew her, except by repute. We have seen, in our 
introductory survey of the historiography of the supposed affair, 
that Mantovani dates the beginning of Verdi's love for Teresa Stolz 
from the time of the last rehearsals of Don Carlos at Bologna. He is 
followed in this by Gatti, in his first edition, and by Zoppi, who tries 
to account for the continuing friendly relations between Verdi and 
Mariani by explaining: 'It is one thing to fall in love, and another to 
attain love's perfection. Nothing prevents us conjecturing that there 
was a period of waiting, between that falling in love and that per- 
fection. A time of doubt, like a shuddering and germinal March day, 
of temptations, of delicious and tormented perplexities, perhaps too 
1 Abbiati, III, pp. 133-5. 



338 THE MAN VERDI 

of scruples, of anticipated remorse on one side or the other.' x But 
Verdi, in reality, did not attend either rehearsals or any performance 
of Don Carlos at Bologna. This is another thing quietly corrected by 
Gatti in his second edition. 2 

Abbiati, in all these matters, is quite hopelessly confused. He tries 
to reconcile old assumptions and new documents by fictional 
elaborations worse even than Zoppi's, and far longer. 

All through the autumn of 1867 correspondence continued between 
Mariani at Bologna and Verdi and Giuseppina at Genoa and Sant' 
Agata. There was no lack of gossip and scandal concerning friends 
and neighbours : 

Bologna, 7th October: 

Corticelli is here and comes to wake me up every morning. He too has 
contracted the bad habit of maltreating me always, for he says I stay up 
late at night in the cafe. He's a proper grumbler. I have been assured that 
he is a woman chaser par excellence and that Bologna is full of his former 
mistresses, old and young. ... I received a letter this morning from the 
Pallavicino family, with the usual greetings for you and your wife, and 
among other things they tell me there has died of cholera the young Count 
De Sonnaz, object of the jealousy of the Marchese Negrotto, the daughter's 
husband. That ass now delights in tormenting that poor creature, mani- 
festing to her his infernal joy at this death, and he says that God has 
avenged him. 

This was just before Corticelli, when his fortunes were at a low ebb, 
was engaged as Verdi's bailiff at Sant' Agata. Suddenly, by this very 
fact, he became an object almost of veneration to Mariani: 

14th October: 

This morning the good Corticelli told me he had received Signora 
Giuseppina's letter, and wept with consolation. You really are angelic 
creatures ! You have rendered happy one who is the king of men of honour, 
and the admiration of all the honest. Poor Mauro ! He comes to see me 
every morning and his company is so dear to me, because I consider him 
part of yourself and of that dear creature, your wife. Are you coming to 
Bologna? You can be sure you would not be annoyed. There is a fine 
exhibition of pictures. Come, my Maestro, it would be such a consolation! 
I would allow myself to be made fun of, too — but do come ! 

With the performance of Don Carlos at the Teatro Comunale on 
27th October Mariani attained the first of the twin peaks of his 
career. Under his direction the great but ponderous work, in its 
original five-act form, took flight as it had not done in Paris and as it 
has never again done since. Contemporary criticism recognized his 
great contribution to this result. Filippi wrote in La Perseveranza : 

1 p. 197. 2 p. 500. 



THE BREACH WITH MARIANI 339 

The success was immense, the performance phenomenal. The first and 
greatest credit for this marvellous achievement is due to the conductor, 
Angelo Mariani, for whom no praise, no epithets, can suffice. In him, one 
may say, all Verdi's opera is incarnate, for not only did he rehearse and 
conduct the score, but he thought of everything, down to the smallest 
detail of the staging. From the orchestra his genius (it really is genius) 
sparkles ; one would say that by richness of colour, by fire, by the magic 
of sonority, he creates another Don Carlos within the Don Carlos of Verdi. 

Perhaps the composer, if he had been present, would not have 
approved of all Mariani's ways of doing this, but it is certain that the 
revendication of his opera gave him no little satisfaction. He was 
enabled to write to Escudier : 

It seems that Don Carlos has had a very great success at Bologna. 
Everybody says that the performance is marvellous, and that there are 
some most powerful effects. I can't help reflecting: here, it's not a month 
since the rehearsals began, and great effects are obtained; at the Opera 
they rehearse for eight months and the result in the end is an anaemic and 
cold performance. See how right I am to say that one single hand, if 
secure and powerful, can work miracles. You have seen it with Costa in 
London; you see it in greater measure with Mariani at Bologna. 

Almost before the first echoes of the triumph of Don Carlos at 
Bologna had died away, Mariani was again in